30 March 2012

Garage Sales - Saturday Mornings - In Any Area Where People Live!

The ultimate Cheapskating tip is.... garage sales! There is no limit to the savings when you shop at garages sales. Clothes are the biggest saving, as most have them really, really cheap (and they are the most plentiful item usually). I have picked up heaps of really nice clothes and shoes in the past for about $1 an item (and some of these still have tags attached). Then there are always plenty of books, CDs and games for entertainment. Bedding, furniture, electrical goods, kitchenware etc for the house. Tools for outside. There are plenty of excellent bargains to be had - all you have to do is go! Obviously you can pick and choose, and there will be a few grungy ones, but there are plenty of great ones too. And garage sales are generally cheaper than op shops (and have better condition stuff too!). Check in the local paper under Classifieds and online. Just type "garage sales" into the search and dozens of websites will appear. You can then refine your search to find just your suburb or town, or the general area. There are usually lots on Saturday morning - but be there on time, as the best stuff goes quickly!!
Contributed by Tina

29 March 2012

MOO Wool Mix

The last couple of days have been good blanket washing days - bright, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze, so I've taken advantage and washed all the summer blankets ready to store them for the winter.

I use this wool wash recipe, which is based on the Martha Gardener Wool Mix available at supermarkets. I've used it for 30 years on all our woollens and delicates and anything clothing or manchester that is stored away. It leaves woollens especially soft and clean, and helps to deter bugs like silverfish and moths that like to feast on our woollies.

4 cups Lux flakes*
4 cups boiling water
1 cup methylated spirits
2 tbsp eucalyptus oil

Mix together and bottle. To use dissolve mixture in hot water, cool before gently kneading woollens to wash. Rinse well and dry carefully in the shade, preferably flat to retain shape.

*Lux flakes - you can use any pure soap flakes or grate cakes of pure soap to get the flakes. Depending on the size of the cakes of soap you'll need 2 or 3. If you use the zester side of your grater the soap will dissolve easily and quickly.

28 March 2012


No, I'm not suggesting we all take up drinking.

RUM - Return Unused Medicines - is a program where you can return out of date or un-needed medicines to your pharmacy for safe disposal.

Medicines, even over-the-counter preparations such as aspirin and paracetamol have a use by date. And it is a use by, not to be confused with a best before. Once the date on the packaging of any medicine, be it prescription or over-the-counter, it is not safe to use and must be disposed of.

Today go through your medicine cabinet and anywhere else you have medicines stored and check the use by dates on all of them. Put any that are out of date aside, ready to be taken to your local chemist for disposal.

And no it is not safe to flush them down the drain or toilet, or put them in the rubbish bin. Medicines are a real environmental hazard and must be treated accordingly.

Safe disposal is simple: just gather up the out-of-date medicines and take them to your local pharmacy. Easy.

27 March 2012

Broccoli Tarts

These little tarts are quick and easy to make and a great way to use leftover broccoli too. 

1 cup cooked broccoli – a good mix of crown and finely diced stem
125g grated tasty cheese
3 finely sliced spring onions
1 cup light sour cream
3 beaten eggs
100g softened butter
90g cream cheese, softened
1 cup plain flour

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease three 12-cup cup cake tins.  Chop the broccoli and set it aside. In a large bowl, mix the next four ingredients – grated cheese, spring onions, sour cream, eggs and butter – then stir in the chopped broccoli.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the flour, a little at a time, and mix well. Roll the mixture into balls about the size of shelled walnuts. Press these balls into the prepared muffin tins so the cream cheese and flour dough creates the tart shell. Spoon the broccoli mixture into the dough shells.

Bake the broccoli tarts for 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes in the muffin tin. After 10 minutes, turn the cup cake tin over; the tarts should easily fall out. These are best served hot. The recipe makes about 30 small broccoli tarts.

26 March 2012

Fun and Funky Easter Egg Decorations

School holidays start this week and with a week to fill in before Easter, these fun ideas will keep kids and grown-ups alike busy and happy until the Easter Bunny visits.

Dyeing eggs is a fun way to create family memories. But why not make those memories especially unique with some funky egg decorating techniques? Here are some ideas.

Striped Eggs

Here's a way to use up spare rubber bands and rubber bands that are thick and thin. For white stripes, put rubber bands on the eggs before dyeing. For coloured stripes, put the rubber bands on an egg that's already dyed in the colour you want the stripes. You can also do this before painting the eggs rather than dyeing them.

Snowy Eggs

For a really funky effect, break out the Epsom salts (available from supermarkets and chemists). What you are basically going to do is coat boiled eggs in PVA glue, and then roll them in Epsom salt. Here are some variations on this basic idea:

* Use un-dyed white eggs for a really snowball-like effect.

* Place Epsom salts in a jar; add a few drops of food colouring, cap the jar, and shake vigorously until the salt crystals are evenly coloured. Then roll coloured or white eggs in the coloured salt.

* Dye the eggs first, the roll in white or coloured salt.

Beaded Eggs

Coat boiled eggs in glue and roll them in tiny seed beads. You can do separate colours or a mix of colours. If you like, paint designs on the eggs with the glue and a small brush, then dip the eggs into the beads. The beads will only stick where you have the design. Seed beads come in a huge range of colours and are available at $2 type shops and craft shops. You can also hunt through the jewellery in Op Shops and take any beads you find off the strings or wires and use them for this craft.


Use cut-up magazines, old stamps, tissue paper, or any thin, pretty paper designs. Apply decoupage medium (or slightly watered-down PVA glue) to the egg where you want to paste the piece of paper; lay the piece of paper over the decoupage medium and then brush over it with more medium. You are working with a small surface so use small pieces of paper and they will fit around the curves of the egg easily.

Melted Wax

When eggs are just finished being boiled, they are obviously very hot. Adults can take the hot eggs and place them in egg cartons, on stiff paper rings, or on a bottle cap to dry. As soon as the egg is dry but still hot, children can gently colour them with crayons. The hot eggshell melts the wax and creates fascinating effects, and little fingers won't get burned if the egg is set into a stand.

A variation on this is to place crayon shavings on a paper plate. Adults can take a hot, dry egg and place it in the plate of shavings. Children can pinch up bits of shavings and sprinkle them over the egg or very gently roll the egg in the shavings. The adult can then remove the egg to a stand to cool.

Make sure the eggs you use are hard boiled. Keep your decorated eggs in the fridge until you are ready to use them for breakfast or an egg and spoon race or as a table centrepiece over Easter.

25 March 2012

What's in the Garden Right Now

I mentioned a few days ago that we had spent the better part of last weekend working in the backyard, moving veggie boxes, transplanting the strawberries and other seedlings, sowing seeds and re-sowing seeds for our winter veggies and Sherilee emailed and asked what was in the garden.

Last year was my year of not buying veggies and it worked for the most part. I did give in and buy some tomatoes towards the end of last winter - I just couldn't go any longer without a fresh tomato to eat. And of course there were the potatoes, onions and carrots that we just don't have the room to grow in quantity. Otherwise I pretty much stuck to what we were growing in the garden.

It was a learning curve. I wasn't completely sure how much of each vegetable to plant. I didn't want to not have enough but I also didn't want to have a glut. Finding the happy medium took some planning and careful recording of harvest quantities and of waste.

All this means that when I did the planting out last weekend I knew exactly how much of each thing to plant so the we will have all the veggies we need and a little more for sharing come winter.

So what's in the garden right now?

Well starting at the very end of the left-hand beds there are:
1 pot planted out with garlic chives - 2 dozen
3 rosemary bushes

The bed then has:
12 sugar snap peas, planted along the back
5 rainbow silverbeet
3 Chinese cabbage
8 mini cauliflowers
8 mini cabbages
8 mini broccoli

In the centre is the square foot bed and it has the strawberries, 58 plants in total.

To the right of the square foot bed in the short raised bed are:
6 mixed lettuces
12 beetroot
36 spring onions

In the large raised bed are:
18 peas planted along the back of the box
12 beetroot
6 mini turnip
18 parsnip
6 celery
18 garlic - mixed between Australian and Italian varieties

In front of the large raised bed are the potato bags, 10 in total, all planted up. Homegrown potatoes are just like homegrown tomatoes - they can't be beaten for taste and they're easy to grow.

In the greenhouse are seeds, hopefully ready to sprout into seedlings to replace the vegetables as they are picked.

In various trays are:
Mixed lettuce
Mini cauliflower
Mini cabbage
Chinese cabbage
Brown onions

That should see us through the winter and into spring, when they'll be replaced with the summer veggies.  We certainly won't go hungry and there is enough variety to keep our meals interesting too.

I'll still buy potatoes and sweet potato, we're on our last bag of homegrown spuds now. I have plenty of onions in the freezer from the 10kg I bought a few weeks ago. But that should be all the vegetables I'll need to buy over winter.

So that's what is in our garden at the moment.

23 March 2012

Heirloom cooking

I have a new book. It's a recipe book of course. And a biography of sorts. It's called Rilka's Feasts and I am in love with this book, or more the stories in this book.

I first came across Rilka Warbanoff when we moved Tom and Hannah to the new school. I had a longer school run and so managed to catch the beginning of Rilka's segment with Lindy Burns on ABC 774 here in Melbourne. I was hooked after the first 5 minutes.

It took me a long time to actually hear a complete segment. We usually arrived home about half-way through, and with things to do, people to feed, washing to bring in and newsletters to send I'd jump regretfully out of the car.

Occasionally I'd sit and listen to the whole segment, when it was just to0 fascinating to leave.

I loved that Rilka talks about her family, her grandmother, her mother, her father, how her family evolved around food. It tugged at my heartstrings because I come from a family of foodies. My mother and my aunties are fabulous cooks and a family get-together was always a feast. And being a large-ish family there is always an excuse for a celebration. Someone is always having a birthday or getting engaged, graduating, having a baby, getting married, moving into a new house, leaving on a trip, arriving home from a trip - you name it we turn it into a celebration. So when Rilka talks about food, inter-woven around her family I get it. And I love it.

It's heirloom cooking. Recipes and methods passed down through the generations, from mother to daughter to grand-daughter to great-grandaughter and so on down the family tree. They are the foods of our homelands, family favourites that may not appear in any recipe book on earth. But they exist. They are the treasures that are talked about over lunch, shared before special events and handed over tenderly, as though they are precious.

And they are. Many are handwritten in notebooks where the paper is so aged it's yellowed and the ink has bled through, browned on the edges and marked with the slightly greasy fingerprints of the countless cooks who've used them. Or they're scribbled on scraps of paper, the backs of envelopes or torn out of newspapers and magazines. They have notes scrawled on them for the cook to follow.

These are the treasures that hold families together. It's said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I think that good food is the bond that holds families close. When you share a good meal with others you can't be angry or hold grudges or sulk. Good food encourages talk and laughter and caring, it puts a smile on faces. It creates fond memories that are thought of and mentioned frequently with the passing years. Yes, heirloom cooking holds families together.

When I cook for my family I'm creating a memory. Yes, I'm nourishing them but more importantly I want them to remember the amazing pot roast we had for Uncle Greg's birthday and the delicious trifles that are a New Years lunch tradition. I want them to know with every mouthful that I love them enough to create good food just for them.

And that's why I so enjoy Rilka's radio segment and now her book.

It's why I have my Mother's Commonsense Cookery Book. It's 54 years old and falling apart, the pages are marked with spills and splotches but I still use it. The measurements talk of ounces and pounds and stones and gills - a gill is a liquid measurement. Isn't it quaint? It makes me want to jump up right now and whip up a Victoria sponge.  My childhood is in this cookbook. The winter nights when lemon delicious, with cream and ice-cream, was dished up to all good children who ate all their veggies. Or the lemon sago (frog's eyes anyone?) or the barley water Mum would make for us. Or the drop scones on a Saturday night as we sat in front of the TV and watched "The Best of British Comedy". Heirloom cooking.

I have recipes from Wayne's grand-mother. Granny Armstrong wrote them out for me when we went to tell her were engaged. She wrote out all the dishes, cakes, slices and biscuits she made for him. I feel honoured. I had no idea until years after she had passed away but Granny didn't share her recipes. With anyone. Except apparently me. On each sheet of paper she made little notes against the ingredients or the method, little tweaks she'd given them over the years. I value those recipes and guard them. They will be passed on to Hannah when she starts to create her own home. And she will know they are recipes from her great-grandmother that her Dad and her Uncle and Aunty loved as children. Heirloom cooking.

My own mother is slowly and painfully writing out her recipes for Hannah and my niece. Painfully because the arthritis in her hands makes writing for any length of time arduous. It's a labour of love and the girls will be privileged to have them. Many of Mum's recipes are of the "take 2 or 3 cups of flour, add a little butter, stir in eggs, add milk to make consistency of cake. Bake in mod oven". No quantities, pan sizes or times. Cooking by instinct, something that comes with practice and experience. These odd recipes are family favourites. Foods my brother and I still request, he cheesecake for his birthday, me caramel tart. Heirloom cooking.

This weekend as I use my Great-Grandma's recipe for fig jam and my mother-in-law's recipe for caramel slice I'll remember: heirloom cooking.

I'll be making memories and creating family traditions as I prepare food for my family in my kitchen.

I make no apologies

This isn't the post I had planned for today. But I make no apologies for that, I feel I need to clarify some points and they need to be clarified now.

Earlier this morning I opened an email from a new newsletter subscriber (she subscribed on the 28th February, so she's had 4 free newsletters since she subscribed).

This email was a blatant attempt to get me to bite, which it did, although my bite was mightily reviewed and reviewed and reviewed again before I did eventually give in and snap back. The sender has been unsubscribed.

Let me make this clear:

Cheapskates (the websites, the forums, the newsletters) belongs to me. I own it. I run it. I build it. I write the newsletters. I even pay for it. It does not belong to anyone else. I keep Cheapskates going because it is a community, a place where like-minded people, who want to live a better life for less, can come together and share their ideas, their tips and hints and their experiences with others.


I will not allow any ridicule or abuse of any kind on my website, my forums, my blog or in my newsletters and I make no apologies for that.

Anyone who attempts any of these things will be unsubscribed immediately and will be banned from ever subscribing or joining any Cheapskates group again .

Our Community is built on sharing and trust, on encouragement, support and respect for each other and our individual opinions.

If you don't like that and don't want to be a part of our community, let me know. I'll remove you immediately.

22 March 2012

Pancakes and bush donuts - real camping food!

Ever since I mentioned that I make up pancake mixes for when we go camping, I've been asked for the instructions.

They are really easy - as is everything I do, no point in making life over-complicated or it's no fun - and carry really well.

Pancake Mix

To make your pancake mix you need:
1 cup SR flour
1/4 cup powdered milk
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp No Egg OR 1 tsp gluten flour OR 1 tsp soy flour

Combine everything together and package in ziplock bags.

To make your pancakes open the ziplock bag and pour in 1 cup cold water. Close the bag and massage it gently to combine the ingredients (this way you don't need a mixing bowl or a fork) until there are no lumps.  Heat your griddle or fry pan, give it a swipe with some butter and pour in the batter. I use around 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, but you can make them as big or as small as you like.

Cook them as you do any pancake - when the bubbles start bursting on the surface turn them and cook for another minute or so. 

Make sure your pan isn't too hot or the bottoms will cook too quickly and burn, you want them to be a nice golden brown colour.

Now this recipe doubles, triples and quadruples nicely. 

When I know we have a camping trip or two coming up I will make up a dozen bags and store them in the freezer. Then when I'm packing our tucker box I just take out the number I need. Sometimes we have pancakes for breakfast, other times lunch or even supper with hot chocolate around the campfire before we go to bed.

There's no rubbish to worry about with this mix. Once you've used it, zip the bag shut and put it back in the tuckerbox. When you get home you can wash and re-use it.

Rubbish on camping trips is a real problem, especially in State and National Parks where there are no bins and we (and everyone else thank you, I get very cross when I see other people's rubbish in the parks) need to take our rubbish out with us. I like to use things that can be re-used or taken home to be re-used so ziplock bags are ideal for this purpose. They are light to pack and when weight is an issue, as it is when backpacking and camping, they are worth the expense.

I've always camped. My parents camped with us when we were little, then with youth group, even our honeymoon was a High Country camping trip. And one of the joys of camping is bush donuts. I don't know who invented them, my Dad would make them for us in the bush and at home and we loved them.

I make them for my kids and they appear at least once every camping trip as a surprise treat.

Bush Donuts
1 loaf white bread, cut thick (toast slices)
1 jar raspberry jam
1 packet of batter mix (make your own or use a packet)
1 cup cold water
Oil for frying
White sugar for coating

Spread the jam on one side of each slice of bread.
Cut each slice into four.
Add water to batter mix and stir with a fork until there are no more lumps.
Heat the oil in a shallow frypan. It needs to be deep enough for the bread to float.
Dip each piece of bread in the batter then drop into the hot oil. Fry until golden, turning with a fork.
Drain on a paper towel or bag or a clean dishcloth.
Roll in the sugar.
Eat while hot!  Yummo!

Get the Measurements Right

Measure dry ingredients like flour and sugar with dry measuring cups. Fill the cup and scrape a knife over the top to remove extra, leveling the contents with the top of the measuring cup.
When measuring wet ingredients like oil or milk, always place the measuring cup on the bench to ensure a level surface.

When measuring sticky ingredients like honey or golden syrup always wet the measuring cup first and place on the bench for a level surface. Wetting the measuring cup ensures all the contents pour out easily.

21 March 2012

Passing on Toys

Give your gently used toys to your local church. The children's section always needs new toys, but leave the ones with a lot of little pieces for the garage sale. If your children attend the church, they can still play with the toys Sunday morning without them cluttering your home. Or donate them to your doctor's or dentist's surgery so the children have something to play with while waiting for appointments. Just make sure they are complete, clean and have no small, loose or broken parts. Think: Would you let your children play with them? If they aren't safe for your children, then they aren't safe for anyone's children, and toss them.

Don't Spend $200 at the Supermarket This Year

March is MOO month. It's the time to take back control of your grocery spending and an opportunity to say good-bye to supermarket reliance.

For a the hefty price (not) of a couple of hours in the kitchen I won't be spending a lot of money at supermarkets this year.

When I first consciously decided to live the Cheapskates way (coming up for 17 years now) the first thing I did was look at what I bought that I could make myself to save some money.

I discovered that cooking from scratch does save money and that it doesn't take any longer to put a meal on the table if I prepare it myself compared to ordering home delivery, going out for takeaway or even heating a pre-prepared meal. I can get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes and save around $20 a meal. That's a considerable saving each year, over $6,000!

I also discovered that homemade not only tastes better and often keeps better but because I control what goes into it, it is better for us as I am able to limit the artificial colours and preservatives I feed my family. A direct result, apart from the dollar savings, is that we are healthier. Our health costs dropped dramatically, especially with the Allan and Hannah, their eczema improved almost overnight and the need for expensive creams, washes and even washing powder disappeared.

I started small, baking cakes and biscuits from scratch. As I became more confident I started to expand: bread, breadcrumbs, yoghurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, pasta, condensed and evaporated milk, salad dressings, mayonnaise, jams, lemon butter, passionfruit butter, peanut butter, pickles, relishes, chutneys, pasta sauces, tomato sauce, bbq sauce, worcestershire sauce, cordials, ginger beer, lemonade, pizza, pizza sauce, shake'n'bake, and more. These days I buy very little packaged or processed foods and just about everything we eat is cooked from scratch. And believe me when I say I am not a fantastic cook!

It really is easy. Take this week for example. We have had an abundance of zucchini in the garden. We had them steamed, stuffed, baked, raw and grated in pasta sauce. I've added them to meatloaf and rissoles. The kids have been munching on them as is or eating zucchini straws with dip and still they kept growing.

Yesterday I made a batch of  zucchini pickle. Nothing new in that, I make at least two batches each summer. It took less than an hour and there are now 12 jars of yummy pickle in the pantry, enough for sandwiches and rolls or to add to cottage cheese for dip until next summer. With what has already been made this summer I won't need to buy pickles for at least twelve months saving around $47 at the supermarket because I won't be buying pickles.

While I was in the kitchen anyway I thought I may as well cook up the tomatoes and capsicums and bottle some pasta sauce too. Again it is really easy - I simply put the ingredients into the crockpot and let it cook on low for 8 hours, until it was thick and aromatic.  Prep time was around 20 minutes. When it was done I poured it into sterilised jars, and used the microwave method to seal it. 

I'm not standing at the stove or the sink all the time. I can go away and do other things. Making pickles and pasta sauce doesn't take hours and hours of hard work but the benefits are huge. I didn't have to buy the zucchini, capsicums or tomatoes. Vinegar, sugar and spices aren't expensive ingredients. I did buy the onions in a 10kg bag from the orchard down the road for 30 cents a kilo a few weeks ago and used 1.5kg in the pasta sauce at a cost of 45 cents.  Yesterday's effort produced 30 jars of pasta sauce. I won't be spending around $100 on pasta sauce at the supermarket this year.

I was talking to my sister-in-law early last year and what she said stunned me. She has never, ever roasted a chicken. Not once in all her married life (and that's a long, long time). When she's made a meal using a roast chicken, she's bought one from the supermarket.

Now it can't get any easier than roasting a chicken so why would you pay twice the price to buy one? Especially when it's been sitting for hours. Eww.

If you have never roasted a chicken, or would like to know how to roast the perfect chicken, here's the steps:

1.Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2.Make sure your chicken is completely thawed if it's been frozen.Wash inside and out thoroughly and dry.
3.Take 3 cloves garlic and a lemon and place them in the cavity.
4.Put the chicken into a roasting dish.
5.Pour over olive oil, rubbing it into the skin. Be generous, a little extra oil in the bottom of the dish is OK but you don't want your chicken swimming in it.
6.Sprinkle liberally with salt, rubbing it into the skin.
7.Put it in the oven and cook for 2 hours, or a little longer, depending on the size of the chicken. A No. 20 is done in this time. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness or pierce the breast and if the juices are clear the chicken is done.

Don't be tempted to skimp on the salt. It not only adds flavour but makes the skin delightfully crisp and golden. There is no need to turn or baste the chicken. Just put it in the oven and let it cook.

Roast your own chickens and not spend around $7 each at the supermarket.

For a long time I've been saying that the supermarkets are not our friends. That's the fiction they like to present, and they do it well. They don't make our lives easier or save us money or time or energy.

Since the 1960s supermarkets have taken choices away from homemakers and destroyed basic homemaking skills, all under the guise of making the Australian homemaker's life easier. Phooey!

What they've done is made the population reliant on them as the main source of food, toiletries, and cleaning products and they are making an attempt to become a one-stop shop with the addition of clothes and homewares.

It is getting harder and harder to find basic ingredients in both Coles and Woolworths. There are plenty of mixes and packaged products, pre-prepared biscuits and cakes, even complete meals. But try to find something as basic as flour or sugar or yeast or gravy powder and you'll be looking, no searching, high and low to find them. You will find them, but a very small, limited range, hidden away from the mixes and packets.

You have three choices:

1.You can give in and live your life according to the supermarkets plan
2.You can ask, and ask, and keep on asking, supermarkets to stock the items you need.
3.You can shop elsewhere.

Number three is my first choice.

I want to be able to buy the raw ingredients I need to prepare the healthy, tasty and economical meals I want to serve my family.

What's your choice?

20 March 2012

Date Bubble Slice

I love anything date - date cake, date bread, date loaf, dates in my granola, stuffed dates and this very delicious and easy date slice.  And since Aldi have started stocking dates at a reasonable price they have featured even more in my dried fruit cooking.

This slice is fantastic, if only because it's no bake. Granted you do need to do a little cooking on the stove, about 6 minutes all up. But that's it. Then the slice just sets in the fridge.

The recipe calls for butter, and butter really is better. You can substitute margarine if you have to, the slice won't be quite as rich tasting.

Oh, and this isn't a slice for very young kids to make. The toffee mixture becomes very hot, a small splash will cause a nasty burn. In saying that, a sensible 10 year old who can follow directions should be able to whip it up without a problem.

125g butter
125g dates, finely chopped
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups rice bubbles

Combine the butter, dates, vanilla extract and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Simmer, stirring constantly, for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rice bubbles. Press into a baking paper lined slice tray. Set in the fridge. Cut into squares to serve.

You can  top this slice with a cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with toasted coconut if you want to.

19 March 2012

Say Goodbye to the Supermarket Fruit and Veg Department

I've really noticed the end of summer this week. The days are getting shorter, or rather the sun is setting earlier and it is dark much later in the mornings. Before too long winter will be here and with it a whole lot of extra expenses: heating, warm clothing, more fuel for the car (less walking in winter weather) and more indoor pursuits which invariably seem to cost something.

I've also noticed it because I've spent the last two glorious days in the veggie garden planting our winter veggies. They should have been in a couple of weeks ago but time was away.  It was a major garden renovation, so I had to wait until there was almost nothing left. We have moved four of our big veggie boxes so they are in line with the rest of the garden.

This came about because we need a new side fence (what a palaver and all over a fence). To get the new fence the old creepers had to come down (yay!). This freed up a whole lot of space - about 54 square feet - in the back garden. It also meant I could move the veggie boxes so they now get sun all day long, instead of just 7 hours.

Unfortunately to move the boxes we had to empty them. That meant digging out the soil, shifting the boxes into their new positions, replacing the soil and re-planting. The boxes were moved one at a time, as Wayne was on call and we never knew just when the phone would ring and he'd have to go to work. It was a huge job and took most of the day, but I can't stop grinning, everything looks so lovely and tidy now.

Mind you I'm paying for it today; my arms and shoulders are a little stiff and achy, obviously not used to all the pushing and lifting of the shovel.

Once the boxes were in place I was itching to get planting. The weatherman says that this is the last of the nice warm days for the year and that a very cold change is on its way for later in the week so I had to get moving.  Wayne turned over the compost for me and we dug in lots and lots of lovely, crumbly compost and watered it down, ready for the seedlings. Then he started a new lot of compost with the lawn clippings and the contents of the bokashi bucket and some fern clippings he mulched up. He'll be able to add apple leaves soon; I noticed this morning they are starting to turn yellow on the tree.

I've planted mini cauliflowers and cabbages. I love these little vegetables, one is just the right size for a meal for my family so there is no waste and they don't get to go black in the fridge. I pick them as I want them so they are really fresh too.

I've also put in some more potatoes (Desiree this time) and re-planted the strawberries into a bigger bed for the winter.  Hannah tells me that our homegrown, organic potatoes are the best tasting ever.  That’s high praise from my girl who doesn’t really like spuds all that much.

I sowed another dozen beetroot too. Have you tried roasted beetroot? Beetroot is a summer salad staple for many Australians but it's even better as a winter veggie roasted in a drizzle of olive oil. Or in a soup or dip.

And of course I've sown some more lettuce and broccoli. We'll also enjoy Rainbow Silverbeet, garlic chives, peas, Chinese cabbage, turnips and parsnips (I love baked parsnip), celery and spring onions. I'm tempted to try a couple of tomato plants and keep them in the greenhouse but I fear Melbourne winters just don't get enough hot sun.

This afternoon I sowed more silverbeet, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and lettuce and celery seeds. By the time these are ready to go into the garden I should be picking their older mates. That's the plan anyway. Succession planting will ensure we have a steady supply of fresh veggies all winter, and save a small fortune too.

For root vegetables, such as beetroot and parsnip, I plant direct. You can buy seedlings of these veggies, but they really do better if they are sown direct and grown from seed. Try beetroot or radishes for salads, turnips and parsnips for soups and casseroles and carrots grown straight from seed and you'll be amazed at how much better they grow for you.

There is still one empty veggie bed. This is for onions. It will rest for the next three months, ready for planting in July. The onions did really well this year so I hope I can replicate the results. The soil has been turned over and had lots and lots of manure dug into it. My Grandfather grew the best onions ever, and he grew them in a mix of 3:1 manure to soil - not what the books suggest at all. His onions were always golden and big and very tasty. My plan is to give Grandad's method a try and hope I have his green thumb, at least when it comes to onions anyway.

When people ask me how I keep the food bill down the first thing I mention is the veggie garden. The few minutes it takes each day to water, pull the odd weed, re-sow seed and pick gorgeous fresh vegetables is fantastic value for effort.  Our fruit and veg bill is so low, around $10 a fortnight, that I once had a journalist accuse me of not feeding my family properly. The look on her face when I invited her out the back to see our garden, and then the smile when she left with a big bag of fresh veggies was priceless.

And I think she understood - you don't need to rely on the supermarkets for your food - you can grow it yourself, in your own backyard, and tell the supermarket fruit and veg department goodbye.

MOO a Cute Potholder from Scrap Fabrics

Potholders are a great beginning sewing project that can be made from scrap material or unwanted clothing and a bit of bias binding.  In fact a pot holder was the very first sewing project I made in high school sewing. It was very simple - two pieces of felt, a piece of wadding for the filling and blanket stitched around the edges.

I've since moved on, both in my sewing and my cooking, and these days pot holders need to be a little sturdier to withstand the constant handing and washing they get.

Here are the simple instructions you can use to make your own cute pot holder. Because you are making it out of scraps or recycled a fabrics it won't cost a thing!

First cut two 21cm squares of fabric to be the front and back of the potholder.  Choose coordinating fabrics that match your kitchen for these pieces.  To make it easier, you can make an 21cm square pattern from a piece of cardboard to use as a template.  Cut more 21cm squares of any old fabric to stack for the filling.  You want the stack of fabric squares to be thick enough to protect you from a hot pot, but thin enough to be flexible and able to be sewn through.

I've used layers of fabric, old towels and quilt wadding for the filling in pot holders over the years. At the moment I have some old woollen blankets, very moth eaten and not of any use as bedding, but cut into squares they will make excellent batting for pot holders. Think outside the square - use what you have on hand. Just remember to keep it to a natural or heat resistant fabric - no synthetics that are likely to melt when they get hot!

Stack all layers so that the outer layers are facing to the outside and the filler layers are inside.  You can put a couple of large straight pins through all layers to keep them together.  Now sew right across the middle of the stack.  Sew across the middle again, perpendicular to the first stitching.  You will have divided the square into 4 squares.  Sew across the stack again from corner to corner, and again from the other corner to corner.  The layers should be joined and sturdy now.

To bind off the raw edges of your pot holder, trim with scissors so that all the layers are again even at the edges.  Open out one folded edge of the  bias tape.  The wider bias tape might seem to be easier to use, but the narrow type makes a neater finished product.  Starting at one corner, line up the edges of the tape with the edges of the potholder, and start stitching through all layers along the first fold line, which will be about 6mm from the edge.  Stitch neatly and slowly, attaching the opened tape all around the edge until you reach the beginning corner.  Cut the bias tape off, leaving 8cm to make into a hanging loop. 

Fold the bias tape over the raw edge so that the middle fold lines up with the outside of the potholder and the other fold is hiding the raw edge of the bias tape.  Now, for best results, hand sew the binding down, forming a loop on your pot holder when you get to the end.  If hand sewing isn't your favourite thing, you can use your sewing machine. Ditch stitch (stitch in the "ditch" created on the right side when you fold the tape over) around the pot holder, forming a loop when you reach the end.

This potholder is just one example of what you can create if you have a sewing machine.  When it is finished, you will have a useful item made from almost all recycled materials, I am supposing you'll use new thread!

These pot holders make lovely gifts and because they are virtually free, you don't need to feel guilty when the become scorched or faded - just make a nice new one for your kitchen.

16 March 2012

How to Make Re-usable Veggie Bags

We have become very used to using fabric grocery bags in the last few years but we are still using millions of veggie bags each year (veggie bags are the plastic bags on the roll in the fruit and veg department).

Even if we re-use them over and over they still end up in landfill and they take a very long time to breakdown. If they end up in our waterways the potential damage is even worse. A solution is to use fabric veggie bags and keep a supply on hand, just as we do with the grocery bags.

When I first started using them I'd get some odd looks at the check-out. After an explanation of how I am trying to reduce my impact on the environment and avoid using plastic bags, and that I was prepared to pay the two or three cents more to cover the weight of the bag, it was OK.  In fact these days my regular market stalls and orchards know me and don't even comment any more. Sometimes other customers do though, and I just go through the explanation again.

I’ve made mine out of tulle that I had in the cupboard, left over from our fairy party days and just waiting for another use and an old net curtain. You can use any light weight, sheer fabric. Remember, it has to be light  weight, as it will add to the cost of your produce if it is too heavy. You can use old sheer curtaining (pick up a curtain or two at the op shop, mine cost $1.50 and made dozens of bags, or a garage sale if you don’t have any) or lace if you have it.

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

1.  Cut the tulle into a rectangle measuring 70cm x 50cm

2.  Fold in half widthways – your rectangle should measure 35cm x 50cm

3.  Measure down 2.5cm from top edge on both sides and mark with a pin

4.  Stitch down first side, starting at pin, and along the bottom to the fold. Turn bag inside out.

5.  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.

6.  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.

7.  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.

I keep my stash of veggie bags in one of the green grocery bags and they live in the boot of the car ready for shopping.  Oh, and you can wash your veggie bags too when they get a little grotty (as they will with use).  I toss them in with the towels or the sheets and line dry and they are as good as new.

It may seem silly to you to be using bags I've made myself, that will add to the final cost of the produce I buy (it's only a couple of cents, the bags are very light) when I'm trying to save money and live to our Spending Plan. I think of it as my contribution to saving the environment.

Plastic bags take a very long time to breakdown, even the ones made of organic material. And they do an almost incomprehensible amount of damage if they get into waterways. Animals get caught up in them, or eat them. If they make it to rivers, streams or the ocean then sea life suffers.

If I can not use just 5 bags a week, that's 260 less plastic bags to destroy the environment. Now imagine if every Cheapskater stopped using just 5 veggie bags a week - how many millions of bags would that keep out of landfill each year?

What an impact one simple, painless little action could have on our world!

14 March 2012

Just for Bookworms

Reading can be an expensive habit if you like to buy books as opposed to borrow them but second hand book shops, op shops and garage sales often offer very low prices for people of all ages. You can find children’s books especially, that have been well loved, for under $1. Save buying new books for those extra special books you know you will keep in your library and enjoy reading on a budget. And when you've read the books, pass them on or re-sell them and use the credits to buy more reading material.

13 March 2012

Homemade tomato soup, it's easy!

When we were first married the only soup Wayne would eat was tomato. Now to me tomato soup wasn't soup, it was something you used to make sauces and casseroles.

I like my soup to have lots of vegetables, and lentils, split peas and beans and be based on a hearty stock. I actually prefer it the day after it's made when the split peas or barley or lentils have thickened it up and it resembles a stew.

But he liked tomato soup. So every now and then we'd have tomato soup and toasted crumpets or muffins or grilled cheese for a meal. Of course once Disaster Struck, I switched to generic tomato soup. And it was awful, so awful in fact that no one would eat it. Don't get me wrong, it's fine in casseroles and sauces, but as soup it is just awful.

I knew it had to be easy to make, soups are. Soup is one of those things we've been conditioned to believe has to come from a can because it's hard to make at home. Ha!

I fiddled around with tomatoes and milk and sour cream and tomato paste and finally came up with this soup. It's better than canned soup, much richer and smoother and so much nicer. 

Best of all when you MOO tomato, or any, soup you know exactly what goes into it.

I make this soup for weekend lunches. Sometimes I serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches, other times with toasted, buttered crumpets and vegemite.

Occasionally I add a tin of savoury brown lentils to it to bulk it up. This makes a lovely soup that is good enough to serve to guests. Actually the plain soup is good enough to serve to guests.

The trick is to puree the tomatoes until they are very smooth. Do this with a food processor or a stick blender. If you don't have either of those tools you can press it through a sieve, this just takes a few minutes and the end result is well worth it.

I hope you like my MOO Tomato Soup.

MOO Tomato Soup

2 410g cans diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 litre milk
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Blend the tomatoes until smooth and pour into a large saucepan. Stir in the tomato paste, milk and sugar and mix well. Warm the soup to a simmer over a medium heat, then stir in the butter. Do not let the soup boil or the milk will curdle. Blend with a stick blender or strain to remove any seeds or pieces of tomato. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  This makes six hearty serves of the most delicious tomato soup.

Don't be tempted to omit the sugar, it takes away the acidity of the tomatoes. The butter gives the soup a richness and also helps to thicken it.

12 March 2012

Tips for Scrapbooking

Scrapbooking is a hobby or craft that is related to pasting newspaper clips, magazine articles, and personal photographs or other into customized, decorated albums or scrapbooks. It was very popular during Victorian times and the last 15 years has seen a resurgence in this popularity. Modern print technology has made the availability of beautiful papers and cardstock, stickers and die cuts almost infinite.  If you have an interest in scrapbooking, these tips will help you choose the right paper, templates and ideas to make your own unique and personalized scrapbook.

1. You need to choose the right paper for your project as there are a variety of scrapbook papers available. Cardstock is a heavy weight paper mainly used for your page layout especially for photo mats and paper piercing. Background and Texture paper is used to decorate the background of your scrapbook pages. Gingham paper is a patterned paper used for background accents on your scrapbook pages. Mulberry paper adds a bit of “flair” to your pages whereas Vellum looks very elegant and could be used for masking an image or embossing. When you choose a scrapbook paper for your memory books always choose one that is acid free so that the photographs you need to preserve are not ruined. 

2. There are different scrapbooking templates that you can use for your scrapbook pages like the lettering templates, envelope templates and die cut templates that assist you in making the perfect design for your scrapbook layouts.

3.  A scrapbooking technique known as “Inking” offers a lot of variety whereby there is no specific way to ink your pages and you can use as much ink as you like in your project. For this you need to have 1) scrapbooking paper, 2) a clean and dry sponge, 30) ink pads of your choice and 4) other supplies such as stamps, stickers, templates.

First cut your desired mattes and papers, then dab the paper in the inkpad and turn it in various directions. This creates a smudged colour on your paper.  Use a sponge to fill in the colour in uneven areas wherever you like. This adds a depth to your pages and gives an antique and weathered look by enhancing your paper and adding to overall layout.

4.  You can use craft punches in different shapes, these are usually only a few centimetres in size. Punch your shape onto the scrap book paper and place it on a copier with a dark sheet of paper covering the punched portion.  Enlarge it to your desired size and cut out the black punch pieces for templates. This way you have some nice shapes for your scrap book layouts.

5.  For beginners, there are some tools such as Eyelet setters, decorative scissors, paper trimmers that all help you to get started.

6. Include quotes to add some elegance to your page layouts. Your scrapbook will become unique and interesting for others to browse.

09 March 2012

How to Make a Groovy Library Bag

Recycle an old t-shirt into a handy, lightweight library bag. As you recycle old t-shirts each bag you make will be unique. They make great shopping bags too, as they can be folded up and kept in your handbag or the glovebox.

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

Turn the t-shirt right side out.

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

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

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

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

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

Voila your bag is done!

08 March 2012

Empty Space is Bliss

Keeping a home tidy and organised is a full-time task. It needs to be done regularly, over and over and over again. Skip one or two of the "overs" and the clutter and mess returns, often worse than before. 

Today's challenge is to clear the clutter, to create empty spaces throughout your home. Empty space is bliss - even if it's just a small empty space.

Take some rubbish bags and get started. Set your timer for 15 minutes and star a clutter tour of your house. Grab anything that is rubbish and put it in the bin bag. Anything to be recycled via the op shop in another bag. Pick up anything that doesn't belong, but needs to be kept and put it away where it belongs immediately. Do not stop to look at anything else, do not take time out of your 15 minutes to tidy a shelf or wipe out a drawer. Look at every item and if it doesn't belong there, is no longer needed there or is beyond it's useful life deal with it.

Put away as much of the clutter as you can. The idea is to clear surfaces so they will be easier to clean and look tidier and that is impossible with stuff all over the place.

07 March 2012

Control Your Urge to Spend

The first thing to do for debt elimination is to control your expenditures. Here we are talking about the unplanned, spontaneous expenditures you often use credit for. Remember that the main reason being your getting into debt is uncontrolled expenditure. If you are really serious about debt elimination, this controlling your spending will help in debt elimination by preventing accumulation of further debt.

Here is what you can do to control your expenditures:

a.  You need to stay away from attractive offers that are put-up by various shops and stores. Don’t buy anything that you don’t really-really need. If it's too tempting remember the $100/24 hour rule, after all you are looking for debt elimination not supplementation.

b.  Leave your credit card at home. If you really, really need something and you don't have the cash to pay for it, then you can go home and get your credit card from your house. This will stop you from giving in to the too-attractive-to-resist sale offers (that are actually there all the year round - or at least every few weeks). This debt elimination technique, again, works on the principal of ‘prevention is better than cure’. This will prevent unplanned expenses from happening.

c.  Prepare a monthly Spending Plan and stick to it. This is really a very important debt elimination measure. This Spending Plan will form the basis of your debt elimination plan. So if you deviate from Spending Plan, your debt elimination plan will go backwards instead of forwards.

06 March 2012

Surprise Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

This recipe was given to me two weeks ago by a wonderful friend who is an absolutely amazing cook. She's so good, she gave me two versions, one gluten free, as she tends to stick to a GF diet. Kate tells me the original recipe came from a friend of hers who found it online. It's been adjusted a little from the original apparently, but it hasn't detracted from the end result - it is glorious!  This is a truly delicious brownie, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Oh, and the surprise is the zucchini - what a delicious way to use up the glut from the garden!

Regular version:
½ cup vegetable oil (not olive, it's too heavy for this recipe)
½ cup honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups finely grated zucchini (about 2 medium or 1 large zucchini)
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ cups plain flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup of fresh or frozen raspberries

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl, mix the oil, honey and eggs until combined and thick. Add the grated zucchini and mix well. Add the baking powder and mix well. Add the flour, cocoa powder and sugar. Mix until just combined.  Gently fold the raspberries into the mixture, being careful not to break them up. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake until set, about 30 - 40 minutes, checking after 30 minutes with a skewer. The cake needs to be cooked and set but not over-cooked or it will dry out. Allow to cool in the tin. When cold, cut into squares. This brownie is best served with a dollop of whipped cream, or warm with ice-cream and berries on the side.

Gluten Free Surprise Chocolate Raspberry Brownies
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups finely grated zucchini (about 2 medium or 1 large zucchini), not squeezed
1½ tsp GF baking powder
1½ cups GF plain, flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup of fresh or frozen raspberries

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl, mix the oil, honey and eggs until combined and thick. Add the grated zucchini and mix well. Add the baking powder and mix well. Add the flour, cocoa powder and sugar. Mix until just combined.  Gently fold the raspberries into the mixture, being careful not to break them up. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake until set, about 30 - 40 minutes, checking after 30 minutes with a skewer. The cake needs to be cooked and set but not over-cooked or it will dry out. Allow to cool in the tin. When cold, cut into squares. This brownie is best served with a dollop of whipped cream, or warm with ice-cream and berries on the side.

05 March 2012

Egg Maracas

Easter is a fun time for crafting with little children. This craft is one you can do at home or playgroup. Because it isn’t complicated most of the crafting is done by the children, you just need to supervise and perhaps help with the gluing.

You will need:
Plastic eggs – at this time of year, coming up to Easter you can buy them at $2 and craft shops in different sizes
Glue – a tacky, fast drying type is the best
Newspaper – lots to put down on your table
Enamel craft paint OR spray craft paint
Paint brushes
Bowls of water
Stickers for embellishment

Clear a space on the table and cover with newspaper. Each person should have their own bowl of water and a paint brush if you aren’t spray painting, and plastic eggs.

1. Add a small amount of rice to one half of the egg. Not too much, it needs to be able to move around to make the noise.

2. Once the filler has been added, dribble a thin line of glue around the egg opening. Snap the egg shut. Wipe off any excess glue.

3. After the glue dries, let the children choose a paint colour to decorate their eggs. If you choose to spray paint the eggs, the paint will dry much faster.

4. Let the eggs dry on the newspaper.

5.Once the egg is dry it can be embellished with stickers.

6.Make music!

04 March 2012

I've never thought of myself as a prude but really……

While I was sorting the washing this morning I noticed that the boys both need new boxer shorts.  They wear them as underwear and have some they wear for PJs and they are usually in their Christmas stockings. Yes, I still do stockings for the kids - they love them and so do I.

Last Christmas they found their usual supply in their stocking and they're wearing them so I know they like them. 

The problem though is this:  they need new boxers and I flatly refuse to buy them any of the shorts I saw today while I was looking for them.  I am their mother. There is no way known I am going to buy my sons, no matter how old they are, anything that is even remotely suggestive or crude. And that's all I could find - I couldn't even find just plain colours.

I could of course put the ball back in their court and make them do their own shopping, but the agony! I don't think I could stand it. I struggle to get them to buy shoes - and they have to be there for shoes, they need to try them on.

My boys like to look good, but boy oh boy do they hate shopping. With a vengeance. They were relieved and happy to hand me the money and give me the task.

So, with that in mind, and because it's MOO month, I decided, after I gave up shopping in disgust, that I'll make them. Which is going to save quite a lot of money too because I have quite a stash of light lawns and satins just waiting to be used. I even have elastic and patterns.

This afternoon I cut out six pairs, ready to sew. That's my job for tomorrow afternoon.

I use multi-size patterns whenever possible. I love being able to adjust them to get the right fit. And of course they do more than one body, always a bonus. I have one beanpole for a son and one  sleeper, meaning Tom is long and skinny and AJ is long and in proportion. Multi-size patterns mean I can buy one and tailor it to fit both of them. That's a big saving, even on half-price sales patterns are not cheap.

Mind you the pattern I'm using is so old, it's a Bargain Box pattern, and it cost the grand sum of $2.50.  I miss Bargain Box.

What else did I MOO today?  Do potatoes count? In between rain showers I dug up the last of this season's potatoes. A whole bucketful of pretty pink and yellow spuds. We had some for tea tonight, roasted in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Yum!

I also made an orange and mango flummery for dessert with MOO jelly and evaporated milk.  It made a very wobbly, yummy dessert that disappeared quick smart.

MOO Flummery
3 level tbsp gelatine
1/2 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups orange mango juice
300ml evaporated milk, chilled

Dissolve the gelatine in the boiling water. Add the fruit juice and whisk well to combine. Place the mixture in the fridge and allow to cool until thick but not set. Beat the chilled evaporated milk until thick and frothy. Mix into jelly. Beat until fluffy and thoroughly combined. Pour into a wetted mould and place in the fridge to set.

You can use any flavour juice, except pineapple, to make jelly. There is an enzyme in pineapple juice that prevents it from setting properly. I've used apple, blackcurrant and orange. Actually you don't need to use juice, you can try cordial or soft drink. Ginger jelly, made with ginger beer, is very refreshing on a hot day.

What did you MOO today?

03 March 2012

MOO scones and jam on a miserable afternoon

It's been a miserable day here today. Wet. Not a nice type of wet, but dank and damp, constant drizzle with the occasional real rain shower. Too wet to get outside and play in the garden, so I've been trapped indoors. Not trapped exactly but stuck inside when I really wanted to get out and get the winter veggies started.

On such a miserable afternoon there's only one thing to do: have an afternoon tea!  I love afternoon tea, with a properly set table and pretty cups and saucers. And what better to have for afternoon tea than warm, fluffy scones with lashings of raspberry jam and whipped cream!

It was decided - we would have scones for afternoon tea. Only problem was we didn't have any raspberry jam. We have fig jam, we have cumquat marmalade, but no raspberry jam.  We did have raspberries in the freezer though so problem solved. I'd make some jam and while it was cooling put a batch of scones into the oven.

Raspberry Jam

Berries, fresh or frozen, are rather expensive, so keep an eye out and stock up when they are on sale. Aldi sell a range of frozen berries for $4.99 a 500g packet which is cheaper than other frozen berries and a lot cheaper than fresh.

500g frozen raspberries
2 cups white sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Place frozen berries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Stir, over a low heat until berries have thawed and sugar has dissolved. Increase heat to medium and continue to stir until jam boils.  Continue cooking jam, stirring continuously and at boiling point until setting point is reached - about 15 minutes. Stir continuously to avoid burning and sticking. Once jam is ready, allow to cool a little before placing hot jam in sterilized jars and sealing.

Lemonade Scones

This is an old Tupperware recipe, but it makes scones so easy. No rubbing in butter, just three ingredients. I keep cans of lemonade in the pantry just for scone making (I buy them when they are on sale for under 50c a can).

1 can of lemonade
300ml cream
3 cups of self-raising flour

Preheat oven to very hot 220C. Add lemonade and cream to flour, mix to form soft dough.  If the dough is very wet and sticky, add a little more flour. Turn the dough on floured surface. Gently pat the dough into a round about 2 cm thick.  Cut into scones with a floured cutter. Place close together on a lightly greased and floured scone tray so the scones touch lightly, brush with whisked egg and bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Your scones will rise higher if they are touching while they cook.

Making scones and jam is so easy. I know if you've never tried to before it seems very difficult. That's what you are supposed to believe, or the marketing gurus wouldn't be doing their jobs properly. You are meant to think that you can't do these things and that it is easier and better (that one always makes me smile) for you to trust the supermarket has your best interests at heart and just buy them.

The jam recipes makes two large jars. I use pasta sauce jars, so around 1kg of jam, for approximately $5.50. It's not cheap, but it's not nearly as expensive as buying a good jam.  The cheapest jam I've been able to find (I did  quick online squiz for prices) is generic for $5.00 a kilo. I bet it doesn't have nearly as many lovely berries in it as this recipe, and it could well have thickeners and other additives (it shouldn't, jam should be just fruit, sugar and water or lemon juice). I'd rather pay the extra 50 cents and MOO it.

The scone recipe makes between 12 - 15 scones, depending on the size of your cutter for approximately $2.25, or  15 - 18 cents each.  Fresh scones are 75c each at Coles!  That's 200% more than the cost of MOOing them.

It is tempting, when you are tired and rushed, to just give in and buy the things you want or need. But when you do you not only end up paying a lot more, but you miss out on the satisfaction of creating something truly amazing with your own hands, in your own time.

During MOO month, try to make as much as you can yourself. One thing at a time. Start with something easy: jam or scones or even Cheapskates washing powder, but start. Until you do you'll always be reliant on the supermarkets and the waffle their marketing gurus blurt at you.

I'd show you a photo of our lovely afternoon tea but just as the scones were coming out of the oven Wayne and the boys walked in.  They had been on a working bee at the train clubrooms and were hungry, wet and looking for food. Those scones disappeared before I could blink!

My brother and sister-in-law are calling in for a visit tomorrow so I just might have to make some more. If I do I'll be sure to take the photo before I put them on the table :)

02 March 2012

MOO Dry Carpet Cleaner

I am a carpet fan. I love our wall-to-wall carpets in the living areas of our home. Tiles and polished boards may look lovely but they are just too much work for me. I don't like the noise, I don't like the fact that they may have just been cleaned and straight away you can see marks and dust on them. I don't like that they are hard or that they are slippery.  I much prefer carpet.

Carpets look good all the time. If you have a "no shoes" policy they stay clean. They muffle footsteps and the thumps and bumps of kids in the house. They are warm in winter. And if you fall over on carpet it doesn't hurt nearly as much.

Occasionally though they can get a little stinky. Pets, smoking, winter and humid weather can all give your carpets a musty or stale odour.  Keeping carpets fresh is easy. Regular vacuuming is essential, at least once a week. Even if you don't use the room, dust from the air will still settle on your carpets so when you vacuum the rooms you use, vacuum the rooms you don't use as well.  Clean up spills immediately and have your carpets cleaned properly at least once a year (and as an aside, dry cleaning is much better for your carpets than steam cleaning, especially if you have wool or wool blend carpets).

But even with this regular maintenance there are times when carpets just need a little extra care and attention. An easy and cost effective treatment is a dry shampoo. Of course you can buy these, there are a number on the supermarket shelves, for a price of course.

As it is MOO month, I thought I'd share my dry carpet cleaner and freshener with you. It leaves your carpets soft, clean and fresh smelling and costs under $1 to make.

You will need:
2 cups bicarb soda
1/3 cup cornflour
5 bay leaves, crushed (rub them between your palms)
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 clean margarine container with holes poked in the cover

Mix ingredients together and sprinkle liberally all over the carpet. Use a dry broom to lightly brush the cleaner into your carpet. Leave overnight for the best result, but at least two hours for the cleaner to be effective. Do not walk on the carpet while it is cleaning. The next day vacuum carpet thoroughly.