31 July 2011

How to Turn an Ice-cream Container into a Hanging Basket

I have used a variety of clear plastic bottles (with the coloured bottom slip removed) and white ice-cream containers as planters. Clear plastic bottles and white ice-cream containers absorb the natural sunlight and encourage seedling growth and I've had success with 99% of the seedlings that I've started off. Also with the use of white ice-cream containers (or any white in the surrounding areas of seedlings and plants) the sunlight reflects off of the white surface and bounces onto the tiny seedlings as they grow, which encourages the growth rate in a similar fashion to an ultra violet light, but of course in a natural and non-electricity consumption manner. In terms of hanging materials to hang the containers with, I've used a variety of inexpensive chain (purchased by the metre from Bunnings) and cut to size and also old skipping rope or any other type of rope. Nylon is pretty good as it's quite durable in all types of weather conditions. Simply place three (or four if you prefer) holes into the top part of the container sides and attach accordingly. For nylon rope you can either tie a knot at the end and leave as a stub on the inside of the hole OR tie the ends back up and onto the rope itself. It really depends upon how heavy each container is with the soil or potting mix in them and how secure you feel each one needs to be. If you prefer the use of chain, simply cut the desired length by as many pieces as you are wanting. Thread the chain through the holes you've made as described above and with a pair of pliers open up the end loop and attach to one of the loops in the length of chain and then close it again. Also don't forget to put some holes into the base of the containers for drainage.
Contributed by M., St.Albans

30 July 2011

Restoring the gleam of your copper

The rangehood in my kitchen has a copper finish, which I really like. Over the years the lacquer has been scrubbed off, leaving it dull and dingy.  To find out how to restore the shine, now the lacquer has gone, I went straight to the Tip Store and found Lou's Copper Cleaner recipe. It works like a charm, I've even cleaned the bases of my saucepans with it (I didn't polish them with oil though).

Copper Cleaner

1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
vegetable oil (optional)

Mix vinegar and salt (a tablespoon of each) and apply to surface with a rag. Rinse thoroughly with water to prevent corrosion. Apply a little vegetable oil with a cloth and rub for a shiny appearance. Do not use this cleaner on lacquered finishes.

Contributed by Lou

29 July 2011

The Bare Bones Shopping List

If money is tight and your cupboards and fridge are bare this shopping list will get you through the week. It is a very basic list and not meant for long-term use, but for a week, to save money and use up the food you have it works.

Depending on where you shop, this list will cost you between $20 - $30 dollars and will provide 3 meals a day for 4 people every day for a week.

Login and download Bare Bones Groceries for recipes and ideas to feed your family for $20 a week.

28 July 2011

A very handy cupboard

Create an old fashioned utility cupboard, or at least a shelf in a cupboard. Stock up on household candles and tea lights, matches or a small lighter, batteries, torches, a huge roll of real string, replacement light bulbs for all your light fittings and lamps, fuses, glue, sticky tape, masking tape, drawing pins, wd40, a pair of scissors, a Stanley knife etc, etc.  I keep all these things in the small cupboard over the rangehood in our kitchen so I can put my hand on whatever I need when I need it.

27 July 2011

Stop and Ask If It's Worth Your Time

When buying something, ask yourself  "this item is costing me so many hours/minutes of my work time…is the cost worth the time I had to use earning the money?”

If you're unsure, walk away for 24 hours. If, after that time, you are still unsure don't buy it. While waiting won't cost you anything, it could save you a lot.

26 July 2011

You've got it Margaret, by George you've got it!

Being a contented Cheapskate is easy, as Margaret has realised, but it does require a little attitude action on your part.  Your success in becoming debt free and cashed up depends on just one thing: your attitude.  You can choose to be content living the Cheapskates way, or you can choose to be miserable.

Living the Cheapskates way can be easy and fun, or it can be hard, miserable and you can feel deprived. It's up to you.

As you live the Cheapskates way, you'll  come to see It really is as simple as the choices we make. As Cheapskates Wayne and I consciously choose to skip the fancy restaurants (unless it's a really, really, really special occasion and then I'm looking for a voucher or Entertainment Book to borrow).  We choose to drive older cars (mine is 10 years old this year) rather than go into debt to buy brand new every couple of years.  When the kids were small we consciously chose to limit their activities to one after-school activity each (although this was more for family than money reasons, money was a factor).

We have figured out what is important to us, so we choose to not get caught up in the hoopla of "so and so has been to XXX so we should go..."  or "the XXXs have just bought a new house....."

We don't miss restaurants and takeaway, movies, designer label clothes, overseas trips, new cars and McMansions because they're not important to us.

We would miss being able to put our kids through school. We would miss our hobbies (and they're not cheap). We would miss my being home for my family. We would miss our camping holidays and I can tell you now that I would most definitely miss running away every now and then with D & Y. We would miss having all the bills paid on time and our Emergency Fund buffer in the bank.

As you get your Spending Plan up and running and choose to pay the bills rather than buy that new handbag (hard choice I know, I'd be torn too) you'll realise that actually you like having the bills under control. You'll realise that those unexpected expenses aren't really unexpected because you've been building your Peace of Mind account and those emergencies - well you just take them in your stride because you've built an Emergency Fund. But best of all you're not worrying about how you're going to pay for everything and you'll realise that you're not stressed, not one tiny, little bit.

You have control of your finances.

You have control of your finances because of the choices you have made.  I hope you view them as positives and come to love living the Cheapskates way as much as we do and Margaret has.

Cuppa Cake

This is the simplest of dessert cakes and gets it's name, obviously, from the ingredients - a cuppa flour, a cuppa sugar, a cuppa fruit salad. I was given the recipe by my friend Sandra, who adapted it from, would you believe, a recipe in the film Steel Magnolias.  Moist and rich this cake is delicious served warm with ice-cream, cream, custard or all three if you don't mind hearing your arteries hardening with each mouthful!

1 cup SR flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup tinned fruit salad with juice

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Mix the flour, sugar and fruit salad with juice together until combined. Grease a 20cm square casserole dish or cake tin. Pour in cake mix and bake until cake is cooked and syrup is bubbling around edges, about 25 - 30 minutes.

This recipe is so simple, just measure, dump, mix, pour, bake. It is very rich and sweet, but don't try to cut down the sugar, it's not the same with less. Just cut the serves smaller, about 5cm square. Drizzle the top with any syrup, add cream if you're willing to risk those hardened arteries and enjoy.

We don't usually have desserts unless it's a special occasion or like today, I can't resist temptation.  I have one in the oven now, just typing out the recipe was enough to tempt me. 

25 July 2011

Get more wear from your kid's clothes

Sewing for babies and children is fun, and can save you a lot of money when it comes to dressing them stylishly. Baby clothes are often outgrown before they are worn out, but once that little baby starts to crawl, then toddle, their clothes come in for a real battering, often cutting short the time they get to actually wear your handmade creations.  Keeping them looking good doesn't have to involve a lot of time or money, just a little creativity.

• Sew decorative patches on the knees. I did this when trousers were new, rather than wait til the knees were worn.  On school trousers and good pants I put the patch on the inside of each trouser leg.  This is an especially good idea for crawling babies. Add a padded patch (use fleecy or polar fleece for softness) for your baby's comfort when he crawls on hard floors.

• Include a large hem. When your child grows too tall, but still fits the garment around the waist, you can just let the hem down a bit. Dab the fold with some vinegar and steam to get the crease out.

• Add "expandable" features to your child's clothing. A pair of pants or a skirt with an elastic waistband will fit them a lot longer than one with a sewn waistband.

• Add decorative trim to pants or a skirt that is too short but fits around the child. A old pair of jeans can be lots of fun with an embroidered band added around the hem, or a skirt can have a length of lace added or a band of contrasting fabric.  Use your imagination!

• Be sure to follow the fabric manufacturer's instructions for laundering the item. This seems obvious, but sometimes it's something we need to be reminded of.  Just throwing things in the wash can result in a lot of ruined clothing. Remember to sort, close zippers and do up buttons. Turn dark clothes and heavy jeans inside out to wash.

• Re-dye clothing that isn't worn but is stained or looking faded. You can find the dye at the supermarket, chemist or your local craft store.

22 July 2011

Willpower Empower

Despite making lists and economising and following Cheapskate's guidelines, I decided I just didn't have willpower when it came to the supermarket. Even though I would go with a list of five items I would come home with ten or more. Now the five items were the essentials...the others were what I thought I needed when I saw them or thought I might need them later. After discussing this with a friend I discovered she was the same. So now we make our lists, give them to one another, and we only buy off that list. We deliver to one another, collect the amount owing and have coffee. And celebrate our savings, which are so far running at $60 a week. We are putting that away towards a family holiday together.

Contributed by Susan Dunstan

21 July 2011

Create a Cleaning Caddy

Spend half an hour equipping a basket, box  or bucket full of homemade cleaning products (or the ingredients to make them) and rags for keeping your home fresh and sparkling.  Choose a container with a handle, and line the base with oilcloth. Establish a place it can live (the laundry, a bathroom or even the linen cupboard) and stock it with a good selection of homemade rags and cloths.  Cut up old towels and sheets, put in a couple of old stockings and don't forget the onion or orange bags to use as gentle scourers. Then add rubber gloves, wads of folded newspaper and all the necessary brushes (remember nail brushes and old toothbrushes make fast work of cleaning the bathroom and cost next to nothing) and you are good to go!

20 July 2011

Flip from Credit to Debit and Reap the Saving

Make the change from a credit card to a debit card and reap the rewards. No, there are no "loyalty" or "reward" programs associated with debit cards, but they far outweigh credit cards when it comes to sticking to your Spending Plan and staying out of debt.  A debit card works just like a credit card, but you are using your money, not the bank's.  This means you can only spend the funds you have available in your bank account. A debit card allows you to make online purchases and can be used the same way as a credit card for other purchases.  For those with credit card (or any other type of) debt, debit cards let you always be in control of your spending. There are no monthly repayments, no interest accruing and no stress.

19 July 2011

Cheesy Filled and Grilled Quesadillas

This recipe makes one delicious quesadilla, just enough for a lunch. Add a big green salad and it becomes a hearty dinner. I use low fat cheese and leftover cooked chicken or beef to make it an economical and slightly more healthful Mexican treat.  Quesadillas are the perfect meal in a hurry. Keep tortillas in the freezer and you can have a meal on the table in just a few minutes.

2 small tortillas
1/4 cup sliced olives
1/4 cup chopped cooked chicken or beef, shredded
1/2 cup low fat cheese, grated
2 tbsp tomato salsa, drained

Heat a heavy griddle or fry pan over a medium heat. While the griddle is heating, put the olives, chicken or beef, cheese and salsa in a bowl and toss together.  Spray one side of each tortilla with cooking spray. When griddle is hot, lay one tortilla on grill, sprayed side down. Spread filling mixture over the tortilla and cover with the other tortilla, sprayed side up. Cook 3 - 4 minutes, or until cheese has started to melt, and you get nice grill marks, then flip and cook other side for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cut into wedges and serve with taco sauce, guacamole or another favorite dipping sauce.

This makes 1 quesadilla – double, triple, or quadruple for more servings.

18 July 2011

Teach Yourself to Crochet Using You Tube!

Approximate $ Savings: $65 for lessons + $$$ for handmade clothing
I wanted to learn to crochet - though I wasn't sure if I wanted to outlay the cost of learning to crochet at a craft store in case I didn't like it. I Googled 'Learn to Crochet' - and came across some great You Tube videos teaching all the basic stitches! So I sat in front of the computer with You Tube playing and taught myself the different stitches for free! I then Googled "Easy Crochet Patterns" and came across some great websites. I bought the yarn at discount stores to begin with - in case they didn't turn out. So far I have made a scarf for myself for $3, and child's beanie for $5 and a baby blanket for a gift - which will cost me $12 in total! I am currently making a pair of baby 'ugg' style boots - again about $3 to make and made in about an hour! I get the patterns for free on the Internet - and if there is stitching or terminology I do not understand in the pattern I Google the name of the stitch with 'how to crochet' following it and I always find a website with photos on how to complete that stitch. I am definitely hooked on crochet now!

Contributed by Nicole, Chirnside Park

17 July 2011

How to clean straw and vine baskets

Most households have at least one straw, rattan or vine basket of some kind, even if it's just a bread basket. They look lovely for a while, until the dust collects in the gaps in the weave, then they just look old and dingy. You'll see lots of them at op shops and garage sales, discarded because they no longer look nice.

You don't have to pass your older baskets on, they are easy to clean. Simply fill either the laundry sink or bathtub, depending on the size of the basket, with warm, soapy water. Immerse the basket in the water and lightly scrub it with an old nail brush or for smaller baskets an old toothbrush.  Rinse, shake the excess water off, wipe over with a towel and leave to dry.

The water will clean them better than ordinary dusting can and the moisture will keep them from drying out completely, keeping the wood from becoming brittle and splitting.

16 July 2011

Chocolate Macadamia Bites

These little nibblies are so good, it's hard to stop at one.  I made them yesterday, using some macadamias I found in the freezer. Wayne's parents have a macadamia tree that fruits prolifically year after year and we are blessed with bags of nuts every year. Thankfully we all love macadamias, they seem to go so well with so many foods, as well as being delicious on their own.

200g finely chopped, unsalted macadamia nuts, toasted lightly
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp almond essence
200g desiccated coconut
375g chocolate bits, melted

Put the macadamia nuts, sweetened condensed milk, almond essence and coconut in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Form teaspoonfuls of mixture into bite-sized balls and place on lined biscuit sheets or baking trays. Put trays in refrigerator to firm up for about 1 hour, or leave at room temperature to firm, which will take about 4 or 5 hours.  When balls have completely set, dip them into the melted chocolate and place them back on the tray to dry at room temperature.

Notes:   Melt the chocolate easily by placing the choc bits in a heat-resistant bowl, then placing the bowl over a pan of water that has been brought to a boil and removed from stovetop. Stir until chocolate melts, then remove bowl from hot water and continue stirring until mixture cools slightly; now it's ready to dip.

If you aren't keen on almonds or marzipan, cut the almond essence down to one teaspoon OR substitute it for your favourite flavouring, adjust the quantity accordingly.  Orange essence is very nice in these little truffles too.

14 July 2011

R.I.P. old friend

Today I am mourning the loss of a dear friend.

It's silly I know to feel so sad, but this morning I broke my mixing spoon. Clean in half. I feel almost lost without that spoon. To everyone else it was just a spoon. But to me it was my spoon, the spoon that has been with me since before we were married.

My spoon has shared almost 25 years of my life. It's been with me as I've mixed pancakes for breakfasts and stirred pasta sauces that have been rated "fan-freaking-tastic" or "yerckkkkk". My spoon has stir-fried hundreds of woks of noodles and veggies, beaten coffee cakes and tested custards for wobbliness.

It's scraped dough out of the mixer and veggies from the food processor. It's stirred gravies and sauces, soups and stews, tossed salads and spread icing.

This off-white melamine wonder was just the right shape for beating mashed potatoes. It had a nice flat edge, just the right width to fit the curve of a mixing bowl or saucepan.  It's handle was long enough to rest on the edge of a pot without getting hot.

My eyes wander of their own accord to the utensil jar on the bench and the empty space where my spoon usually rests. The jar seems off balance somehow. The gap is taunting me, reminding me that I was too harsh with such an old friend and should never have tried to scrape the bottom of a burnt pot with it. How could I profess to love something so much and yet treat it so harshly?

All I can say is my old friend has never let me down until this morning. My spoon started out scraping as reliably as it ever has. And then, all of a sudden, with one sharp shove, it snapped. Really. The sound it made as it broke in half was a definite snap. My spoon had never snapped at me before, it's never so much as scratched the bottom of my non-stick pan.

I guess I just pushed it too hard, harder than it could take and I broke it.

And now I have to live with the guilt and regret of knowing that it is my fault, and mine alone, that I no longer have my old friend in the utensil jar.

The kids suggested we go out and buy a new spoon, but I think it's too soon.  I need to wait a couple of days, try out some of the other spoons, waiting at the back of the utensil drawer. I need to give them a chance to step up and take my spoon's place.  If they ever can.

Farewell old friend. We've shared many an hour at the stove and I've loved every one of them. You will be missed.

Think outside the square

Egg slicers can be used for so much more than slicing eggs. They are great for cutting cold, cooked potato into slices to make fries and can be used to slice soft cheeses. Use and egg slicer to cut thin slices of mozzarella and add to your homemade pizzas for a gourmet touch.

13 July 2011

Stick to your own ATM

It may seem like commonsense, and it is, but by not using out-of-network ATMs you can save between $3 and $5 a week, up to about $250 a year, a fee you are paying just to withdraw your money.  Better still avoid ATMs altogether and withdraw the cash you need for the week during an EFTPOS transaction (it may be  your petrol or groceries) and you won't get caught by mistake.

12 July 2011

Food Processor Cinnamon Scrolls

I love cinnamon scrolls, but the $3.80 the bakery charges makes them a very expensive treat, especially when they are so easy to make at home.  If you have a food processor they are even easier to make.  You'll get 16 scrolls for around  $5.40, a much better price than the bakery's.

These scrolls are delicious for morning or afternoon tea, but for a really decadent treat have them for a Saturday or Sunday brunch, warm from the oven, with a steaming cup of tea or coffee and the newspaper. Bliss!

1 cup milk                                                                    
2 eggs 
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 cups wholemeal plain flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp instant coffee
3 tbsp milk

Add the flours, salt and sugar to the bowl of the food processor. Process for a few seconds to combine. Warm 1/4 cup of the milk to lukewarm and add the yeast. Set until this mixture foams, about 5 minutes. Beat the eggs and melted butter into the remaining 3/4 cup of milk and add to the processor with the yeast mixture. Process for 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball and leaves the sides of the bowl. Turn into an oiled mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and sit in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about a hour.  Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and allow to rest while you prepare the filling.  Mixing the cinnamon and brown sugar together. Roll dough to a rectangle about 40cm x55cm. Spread softened butter over the entire surface of the dough and then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Roll the dough up Swiss roll style. Trim off uneven ends (I don't, my boys like the end scrolls). Cut the roll into 16 even pieces with a serrated knife and place on a baking paper lined slice tin. Have the rolls just touching each other, this promotes even rising and cooking. Cover with a damp tea towel and put them in a warm place to rise until they have doubled in size, about 30 minutes.  This time of year (winter) I sit them on top of the clotheshorse over a heater vent, a sunny window will work too.

While the scrolls are rising preheat the oven to 205 degrees Celsius. It is important to pre-heat the oven as the scrolls need to go into a hot oven and start cooking immediately or they will be underdone and doughy in the centre. Once the scrolls have doubled in size, bake until they are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. 

While the scrolls are baking prepare the glaze.  Beat icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract, coffee and milk with a mixer to a thick pouring consistency. You may need to add more milk if the mixture is too thick.  Remove the scrolls from the oven and spoon any of the filling that has leaked into the pan over the scrolls, then spread with the glaze while still hot. Make sure to get the glaze into all the dips. Let cool 15 minutes before eating if you like them warm.  These scrolls freeze beautifully.

11 July 2011

Oh Chris! Mothering is hard work!

There's a forum thread 'Do you ever feel like a doormat to your kids' that has had me thinking about mothering. (And no, that's not our family in the picture. They wouldn't pose for me!).

I know that if I'd known for sure just how hard it would be I'd have thought very, very carefully about having 3 children :)

It's not the physical side of mothering I find hard, although it is hard work. How come it's mum who teaches offspring to hang up towels - the right way, over the towel rail and straightened out so they dry, or that standing in front of the fire is ok, until you bend over. Then we just call you Stripes. And you bear the striped scars to prove it really did happen - you burnt your bottom! And it's always mums who introduce solid food - you know, zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant, broad beans, squash, beetroot - and in doing so instils a love of good, healthy and wholesome food in the aforementioned offspring?

It's mum who gets up during the night when someone is sick. She signs up for canteen duty and helps with classroom reading. Then she takes on Brownies or Scouts or helping in the kitchen at youth group. Mum runs the family taxi service, and is always on call.  And I'm pretty sure that not one of us knew that we were signing on as personal shoppers when we gave birth. But we do it. We shop for our offspring, and clean for them, cook for them and cheer for them.

Yes the physical part of mothering is hard.

But it's the feeling side of this mothering gig that I find hardest. From the moment I looked into AJ's wide open, beautiful brown eyes I was in absolute, no use denying it 'cos it's never going to change love. Ditto Tom and Hannah. I still find it hard to believe that these three amazing young people were made by me. OK and their dad. I guess he did have something to do with it.

So why is it that when I love them to pieces and miss them so much it hurts when they're not here there are times I just want to encourage them to leave home. Loudly. Very loudly.

Sometimes  in the hustle and bustle of this modern life we live we forget that our children are supposed to whinge and whine and buck our authority, especially when they reach their teen years - that's a part of growing up.  That's how they learn about boundaries and actions and reactions and consequences and results and rewards. It's how they learn about compassion and sympathy, about lending a helping hand just because you can. It's how they grow into fantastic adults.

Don't get me wrong, I am the meanest mother on Earth at times (just ask any one of our three). I expect that they all pull their weight in the house; they are a part of our family but they also make the jolly mess/create the work/expense or whatever.  And they most definitely do not get away with teenage tantrums. Ever.

Remember that old saying from high school science:  for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?  That's the thing we need to teach our children,  that there are always consequences.

If they put their washing in the laundry basket they have clean clothes to wear, if they don't then they wear the stinky stuff.

If they clean their rooms then they won't be embarrassed when friends come over - I long ago gave up being embarrassed by the state of the boys' rooms - they are cleaned (not tidied, cleaned) once a week, bedding changed, floor vacuumed, furniture dusted. If they want to live in an untidy mess that is their problem. I just close the door on it now when my friends call in.

If they want me to run them somewhere or put money in their bank account or cook their favourite dinner or do something else that inconveniences me, then they need to do something to help me so that I have the time to do what they would like.

I can say that Wayne and I are blessed with fantastic kids. They don't drink, smoke or do drugs. They don't keep secrets from us, they tells us where they are going and who they are going with, what they'll be doing and when they'll be home. They respect our curfew (and AJ is 20) of 10pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends because they know we don't really go to sleep until they are home (another one of the physically hard parts of mothering) and we have to get up early for work.  They pop their heads through our bedroom door and whisper that they are home. They bring their friends home and we often end up with a house full of young people from 15 - 21 years old all doing different things, that's a fun part of mothering, I just love it.

Our boys are working part-time jobs while they study and they pay board - 30% of their gross income. They are still expected to do their chores (the charts are still blu-tacked to the pantry door). If they were living anywhere else they would be paying rent, plus buying their own food, paying utilities and insurances and doing all the cleaning, gardening and maintenance. Paying board does not mean a chore free ride - I'd be pointing that out quick smart and suggesting an increase in board money if they didn't want to do their chores.

Our kids aren't perfect. I don't want perfect kids, I'm not perfect. How dull would our lives be if we were all perfect? I have plenty of flaws, some of them I've passed on to my kids. I only hope I've been able to pass on the equal and opposite good traits too.

There have been occasions over the last 20 years when I've wondered what my life would be like if we'd remained childless:  sleeping in, holidays when we wanted rather than around school holidays, holidays to places with room service rather than rellies, new clothes (really new from real dress shops), beautiful furniture, that square yellow diamond ring I've wanted for years.....the list goes on.

I know I'd be terribly selfish and insensitive and very, very spoilt so I guess they've been good for me.

Yes, mothering is a hard job. But I'm so glad I chose it. I just have one question - when do I get long service leave?

Designer Curtains

When it comes to dressing windows attractive curtains are just the thing, but even ready made drapes can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead of buying decorator curtains, find large flat sheets to match or co-ordinate with your colour scheme and use them instead.

To make rod pocket curtains just sew a pocket for a curtain rod at the top of the sheet. Just fold the top edge over 5cm - 7cm depending on the size of your curtain rod and pin in place. Stitch 1cm from the fold and then along the bottom edge to make a tunnel. Slip the curtain rod through and arrange the gathers as you wish.

If you have curtain tracks in place you can use them to hang your new curtains. Measure the width of the sheet and buy enough curtain tape (pencil or pinch pleat) to fit. Sew into place. Slip curtain hooks into the tape and gather to fit the curtain track.

If you need to hem them you can even use lightweight iron on hemming tape to make the job easy.

10 July 2011

Put Garden Furniture Away

Put wicker, rattan or bamboo garden and outdoor furniture away at the beginning of winter . Cover it with old sheets to keep the dust off and store it in the garage or a garden shed where it will be protected from rain, wind and frost.  This furniture should not be left out in the weather to freeze as it causes cracking and splitting and shortens the lifespan of the furniture.

09 July 2011

Always fluffy rice

For plump, fluffy, clump-free  rice every time simply rinse the dry rice before cooking.  Rinsing takes the starch off the grains. Place the rice in a bowl of cool water and swirl around with a fork or your hand (make sure you wash first) until the starch makes the water cloudy. Drain and repeat until the water stays clear. Then cook as usual. The grains of rice will be perfectly fluffed and separate.  Excess cooked rice can be frozen for the future.

07 July 2011

Protect furniture with plants

The biggest danger to timber furniture is dry winter air.  It dries out the wood, causing it to crack and split over time. You don't need to by a humidifier to keep moisture in the air. Houseplants are an easy and attractive way to keep the air in your home hydrated. They also help to keep the air in your home clean too.

05 July 2011

To market, to market to get a great deal

There's been some talk recently in the Member's forum about markets and their value to Cheapskaters. I know this because while I haven't been able to use my left arm for a few days I've been catching up on my reading and the Cheapskates member forum is one of my favourite reads.

I love Dandenong market.  I usually toddle over (read: race like a maniac) on a Tuesday.  I aim for  an afternoon visit but if I can't make it during the afternoon for some reason (I need my beauty nap, I'm having afternoon tea with someone who thinks they are important etc), then I'm up early and over there at 6.30. Yes, that's 6.30am. I like to get a park close to the stalls. And if I'm going over that early then the day is going to be very, very busy.  The stalls are just opening up but my regulars know me and are happy to hurry and open up.

Going to the market later on a Tuesday afternoon is an opportunity to pick up some great bargains. Tuesday is the last market day until Friday so everything has to go, it won't keep or be saleable if it's left until the next Friday.   There is a routine and order to my market shopping, courtesy of years of following my mother around the Queen Vic market as a child.

First stop is always the potato man. I tend to buy potatoes from the same fellow every time, although I do check the prices and let him know if he's a dollar or two over priced.  Then it's whatever other veggies are going cheap that we don't have in the garden.

I find the prices are cheaper than supermarkets and the quality is excellent. I also have the choice of buying 1st quality or 2nds which are heaps cheaper. I buy 20kg of seconds onions at a time, bring them home and spend the afternoon slicing and dicing and packing into zippy bags to freeze. When they are 50c/kg it's worth the effort and last around 4 - 5 months, depending on what I cook.

 I do the same with apples, pears, mangoes in season and bananas, back in the days when they were cheap (well cheap compared to the $13.98/kg they were last week).  I stew the apples and pears and pack in 2 cup lots in zippy bags for crumbles, strudels, pies, pancakes etc

Zucchini by the box if they are cheap and none in garden:, grate, cook up with herbs and chopped tomato and freeze. This mix is then used in lasagne, casseroles, rissoles, sausage rolls and pasties.  Sometimes I add beaten egg,  cook it over a low heat and we have it on toast topped with grated cheese for a quick weekend lunch.  It's also a great mix to add to the spag bol to bulk it out.

If I have time I do a quick up and down the other aisles, checking out the clothes lady (great kids clothes and often brand name ladies wear at rock bottom, better than op shop prices), waving hello to Brian the jumper man and stopping to pick up a kilo of mixed lollies for the lolly jar. Then I cruise by the Dutch ladies and stop to chat if I have time, looking at all the treats they have on offer. Oh I often by our Christmas chocolates from these lovely ladies, they are so cheap and it's lovely chocolate.

Yes, I love the Dandenong market . I love the hustle and bustle and the prices, I love that I have my favourite stall holders who all know me and often have a "special" just for me.

Just one thing:  I never, never, never go there the week before Christmas  - it's complete and utter bedlam and I hate it.  The kids and I were trapped in the car park for nearly two hours one Christmas the traffic was so bad. And it's not an experience I ever want to repeat.  I'll stick with being a Tuesday shopper.

Sausage Rolls

It's school holiday time again and kids around the country (or at least in our house) are starving! They are crying out to be fed so a stash of these yummy sausage rolls is just the thing. They can be eaten hot or cold, they freeze well and can be thawed in the microwave oven and then crisped up under the grill if necessary. Serve them as a main meal with salad and a blob of salsa on the side, or with homemade wedges, salad and a creamy salsa. I always make a double batch, they don't last long!

500g sausage mince
3 slices stale bread (or at least day old bread)
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 large onion, grated
3 tbsp tomato sauce
4 sheets puff pastry

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Place the bread in a shallow bowl. Cover with boiling water, let the bread soak the water up. Stop adding water once the bread is soaked. Let cool a few minutes then squeeze the water from the bread. Place the bread, sausage meat, onion, herbs and tomato sauce in a bowl. Using your hands mix well, making sure the bread in incorporated into the sausage meat. The bread keeps the meat moist and takes away the greasy taste that often represents sausage rolls.  Cut each pastry sheet in half. Divide the meat mixture into 8 lots. Spread one lot of meat mixture down the centre of each piece of pastry. Fold the ends over, pressing down to seal. Place each strip seal side down on the baking tray. Cut into sausage rolls. Cut in half for large meal size, or in 4 or 8 for snack and mini size. Prick top of each sausage roll with a fork. Brush with water. Bake in oven 15 - 20 minutes, until pastry is puffed and golden and meat is cooked.

You can dress these sausage rolls up by adding grated carrot and zucchini or diced tomato. Swap the tomato sauce for curry powder and leave out the mixed herbs for curried rolls. Stretch the mixture by the addition of 1 cup of mashed potato (perfect for using up leftover mash).  Brush the tops with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

04 July 2011

Re-purpose old placemats

Placemats are an inexpensive dining room makeover item, but often they are too good to throw away.  Recycle them into shoe bags, they'll protect your shoes and make packing for a trip easy too.  Simply take two placemats and fold each in half, short ends together.  Stitch along the bottom and side. Make a casing at the top and thread a drawstring through. Voila you expensive shoes will be protected from dust and those accidental bottom of the wardrobe scuff marks.

03 July 2011

Ashes to compost

What to do with the ashes from your fireplace when you clean it out?  Mix them with clean, dry leaves and leave it to decompose. You'll end up with a lovely pile of leaf litter you can use to scatter around roses or as a mulch.

02 July 2011

Having fun for less

There are lots of things to do at home during the school holidays, but it's nice to go out and have fun too.  You don't have to spend a fortune to keep the kids entertained during the holidays.   Look for:
  • attractions such as museums that have free entry for children
  • kids' movies have adults view free offers
  • two-for-one on ten pin bowling, mini golf etc. 
  • special school holiday rates to zoos and theme parks
  • special offers and discounts on websites and in newspapers
  • discounts connected to your automobile club membership
  • use coupons - check the back of your shopping dockets
  • if you have an Entertainment Book go through it to see what's available

01 July 2011

Bank the change

It's not just children who benefit by having a piggy bank. By only using notes to pay for shopping and putting the silver coins into the pink piggy bank on my desk I have saved $43.25 in two months, and it was painless and almost without thinking. When you get coins in change back from a purchase put it in your piggy bank or jam jar or Milo tin or whatever you use as a piggy bank. Always give the cashier whole dollars, not the exact amount. In a few months, you will have “found” money that can be used for to pay down debt or build your emergency fund.