30 April 2013

Toss It In Beef Stew

This is what I call an emergency meal. It's not a dish I would prepare and serve on a regular basis, not because it's not tasty, but because it relies heavily on tins and packets, making it a little more expensive than our regular meals. It is however just right for when you need to be able to put a meal on the table and it can be dressed up for company or served as is for a family dinner.

For the family I like to serve it with mashed potato and sweet potato to mop up that gravy. For guests I serve it over steamed brown rice (which I prepare in bulk and keep in the freezer in meal-sized portions), sprinkled with a little finely chopped parsley. I also add one tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the sauce to give it a little extra zing when I'm serving it to guests.

500g rump steak
1tbsp olive oil
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef consommé or beef and vegetable soup
500g mixed frozen vegetables
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 1/2 cups milk


Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Cut the steak into bite sized pieces and place saucepan. Brown the steak on all sides, then stir in the soup, vegetables and basil.
Place the pan over high heat and bring to a quick boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer 10 minutes.
Stir in the milk and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 4 servings

29 April 2013

15 Sewing Tips to Save Time and Money

I still remember the excitement of my first sewing course. It was a Knitwit course that my mother gave to me to encourage me to sew. It worked! I made a jumper that first lesson and I havne't really stopped sewing since.  When disaster struck being able to not only mend, but make our clothes was a Godsend. Every time I fixed a hem or made a pair of PJs or trousers for the boys I thanked Mum for her gift. Since then I have enjoyed collecting sewing hints to save time and money.

Here are few of tips that I would like to share with you:

1. Before discarding pants, cut off the belt loops and use to sew on the inside of children's coats and jackets for a coat loop. No more fallen coats at school. If they are worn below the knee, cut them off and turn them into shorts.

2. Before sewing on buttons, tape each one where it belongs with a strip of sticky tape. After the first stitches are made you can remove the tape.

3. To avoid pinholes when hemming delicate garments, mark the hemline with tailor's chalk and use paper or bulldog clips to hold the fold in place.

4. Prevent future errors in sewing by slipping a memo into individual patterns explaining any size alterations or changes for that item.

5. Prevent fraying by reinforcing the hems with a row of zigzag stitching in a matching or contrasting color.

6. Sew a large button on each end of the drawstring on children's PJs. This will keep the string from disappearing. I use buttons from overcoats because they are not only big, but often very beautiful. I find them in op shops and garage sales. When I find buttons I love I buy them and add the to the button jar.

7. Keep a spool of clear nylon thread on hand. Because it is transparent it will pick up the colour of the fabric. This will also work when a bobbin runs out and the spool is almost empty; just put the clear thread on your bobbin.

8. Place a thin sheet of foam rubber or an old mouse mat under your sewing machine's foot pedal to prevent it from sliding around when you use it on an uncarpeted surface.

9. Store a magnet in your sewing basket to attract loose pins and attach one to your sewing machine to hold extra needles. If you glue a small magnet to the end of a wooden yardstick you won't have to bend over to pick up any pins that fall on the floor.

10. Thoroughly washed and cleaned mascara brushes can be used to clean the crevices of your sewing machine.

11. When letting down a garment hem you can diminish the crease by applying white vinegar to the wrong side of the fabric and steam pressing it. It really works and is especially good for school trousers and tunics and jeans.

12. Try this economical substitute for custom-cut table pads: Place a quilted mattress cover over your table top and trim with scissors for a custom fit. You'll have a sturdy, heat-absorbent table pad to protect the finish of your table from cutting, pinning and your sewing machine.

13. For a substitute needle threader: push the needle through a sheet of white paper, the eye will be easier to see.

14. When shopping for accessories for a recent sewing project, staple a small fabric sample to an index card and carry it with you to the stores. You won't have to eyeball colours, getting an exact match will be a breeze.

15. To organize loose buttons: String them on twist ties and twist the ends together for an easy way to store them. I then put them into an old jam jar I keep just for buttons.

26 April 2013

10 Generic Items To Buy

I remember eating a few generic or store brand foods when I was a kid and to be honest, they just didn’t taste very good (tomato soup was one thing I remember vividly as being just horrible). The same cannot be said about the no name foods and household items available today.
In fact, I often find that I prefer the store brands over the popular name brand items. Yes, they really are that good! And it’s an exceptional way to save money because store brands are so much cheaper.
Here are just a few of the generic or store brand items to consider on your next shopping list:

1.   Breakfast cereal
2.   Paper products – toilet paper, paper towels, etc…
3.   Cleaning products
4.   Pasta
5.   Water/soft drink/carbonated beverages
6.   Juice
7.   Cold medications/Pain relievers/allergy medicine
8.   Condiments – tomato sauce, mustard, salsa
9.   Baking goods – sugar, flour, spices
10. Snacks – biscuits, crackers, snack mixes

Generic brands in many cases surpass name brands in both price and quality. Next time you’re at the store, compare prices and try a store brand. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with your receipt and the product.

25 April 2013

Home Organization 101: Easy Steps to a Clutter Free Home

When you first move into your home it seems like you have so much space.  As the years pass, you might find yourself becoming a pack rat.  What are you going to do with all the stuff you have accumulated?  Perhaps it’s time to weed out the unnecessary items and organize your home.

Home organization is a step-by-step process.  It will take more than a day or even a week to get everything to a manageable level, but once you do staying organized is an easier task.  If you have a family, enlist their help.  They can pitch in and learn a thing or two about controlling clutter in their life. 

1. Start with the high traffic areas

The living room and kitchen are usually the two most used rooms in the house.  Everything gets dropped on a bench, the table or the couch in these two places.  Concentrate on getting everything set up the way that you like it before moving on to another room.

2. Use storage containers 

Over the years, the style of storage containers has upgraded to be pretty as well as functional.  Instead of storing containers in stacks in the garage, purchase ones that match your décor in each room and integrate them so that no one would even notice they were being used for storage.

3. Divide items into categories

You can use heavy duty trash bags for this part.  Everything that you find can go into a pile: KEEP, THROW AWAY, GIVE AWAY, and RELOCATE.  Items that will stay in that room are to keep.  Things that you don’t need or are broken can be thrown away.  Clothes or furniture still in great condition can be donated and dropped off at your local op shop.  Anything that definitely belongs in another room can be labeled for relocation when you get to that room.

4. Remove everything from drawers and cabinets 

This is a time-consuming process but it is easier to start with an empty space and fill it instead of simply pushing things around.  If you line things up on the table, someone else can help by putting the items in some type of order.

5. Make use of all of your available space

In the kitchen, for example, appliances or extra containers can be stored on top of the cabinets provided they don’t extend all the way to the ceiling.  That’s extra storage space without benefit of a storage container.  In the bedroom, shoes and winter clothes can go into flat storage bins that slide easily under the bed or the dresser.

6. Label your containers

Use masking tape and a permanent marker to identify the contents of your storage containers.  Avoid writing on the actual container in case they are reused and the contents are changed.  Labeling also makes for easy identification if you decide to sell or give away a container of books or something.  You won’t have to open each container to locate them.

Organizing your entire house takes time.  But, once it is done, returning everything you use to its proper place will maintain that same level of organization.

24 April 2013

25 Strategies to Stretch Your Money - No. 10

Schedule Your Bills

The first expenses you have to worry about each month are your household bills like the rent or mortgage and utilities. It's all the more reason to be organized so you can manage your money to pay these on time each month. 

· Use a calendar, planner, computer program, or online banking account to schedule when your bills need to be paid. Any delay can cost you substantial late fees and finance charges.

· If you set up electronic banking, make sure you understand exactly how the system works. Some programs will not allow you to make a payment on weekends or holidays while others may need a few days to process the payment.

23 April 2013

Pizza Beef Burgers

These burgers are quick and tasty and we love them for a weekend lunch or easy dinner on a Friday night. Served with a side of MOO wedges and a tossed salad they go down very well and take less than 20 minutes from start to plate.


500g mince
4 slices of sourdough bread (or any other good bread), sliced about 2cm thick
1 cup pasta sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Turn the grill on to heat. Divide the mince into four equal portions and press out into burger patties. Spray the grill pan with cooking spray or olive oil spray. Place the patties onto the grill pan. Cook for 10 minutes, turning once or until cooked through.
Add the bread slices to the grill pan and toast during the last 2 minutes of the grilling time, turning them once to toast both sides.
Place the pasta sauce into a small saucepan.
Heat the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until bubbly.
Place the burgers on the toasted bread.
Spoon the sauce over the top of each burger and sprinkle with the cheese.
Return the burgers to the broiler for 1 minute or until the cheese melts.

Makes 4 servings

22 April 2013

Organizing Your Scrapbooking Area

When it comes to thousands of different types of scrapbooking papers and other accessories you will find that it can be overwhelming at the craft or scrapbooking shop.  Since you do have so many options, you will find that it can be difficult for a person to scrapbook when they only have a small craft area or don't have a dedicated craft room, but you can get organized and keep things looking good and clean and that will help you to be able to scrapbook more efficiently.

Getting your papers organized will take up the most space and time when it comes to . A good option for this is a desk topper and suspension files. You can use manilla folders to sort the papers and label the suspension files into colours or categories. This will help you to categorize your papers. If you find that you do not have enough room in a desk topper, you might also find it useful to invest in a filing cabinet or one of the sets of drawers made especially for scrap booking. You can purchase these in any of the local craft stores or you can go online as well, but check out garage sales, eBay and craft shops first, you may pick up a bargain.

Once you own a tool for organization, the next step is to decide how you want to categorize your supplies. You will find that colour is most often used, but you can make it into a theme like a certain day or holiday. You may also want to think about making patterns like stripes. You can also use this system to organize flat embellishments, such as die cuts or stickers.

You also need a place to store your tools and embellishments that are not easily filed. You will find that one good way is to use baskets and a shelving system to help you store and organize your tools and embellishments. Storing cutting tools in one basket, glues in another, markers and paint in a third, and so on is a good way of approaching the art of organization. By buying baskets in bulk from your local $2 shop you will save more money than if you use photo boxes, and the display will be uniform and attractive. Make sure that you label your baskets or shelving so that you can find everything quickly.

If you need to save space, however, a basket and shelving system may not work for you. You will want to make a kit of some of your most often used tools and supplies so that you can keep them close and you won’t have to dig or look around.  That way when you only have time to do a quick page or two, you can use your kit to complete it and then quickly clean up. Or you can pull out the supplies and scrapbook until you complete an album.

Keep your scrapbooking area clean and dusted so your pages and photos stay clean. And remember to put things back where they came from when you finish using them and your scrapbooking area and tools will always be ready for when you have five minutes to work on a layout.

19 April 2013

Tips to Take Advantage of Customer Rewards Programs

 Do you participate in any customer rewards programs? These programs reward you for shopping with a particular company or business.

A very simple example of a customer reward program is a punch card for a coffee shop. Every time you buy a cup of coffee you get a punch. After 8 punches you receive a free cup of coffee. It doesn’t cost you anything and all you have to do is remember to get your card punched each time you buy a coffee.

A common rewards program, slightly more sophisticated than the coffee shop punch card, is Flybuys. Get your card swiped when you shop at affiliated retailers and collect points on your purchases. These points can be redeemed for fuel discount vouchers, gift cards and a variety of other goods and services.

A more advanced program might be a store credit card. You apply for a credit card at a particular store with rewards attached. Every time you buy something you charge it to the card. In return you receive reward points on affiliated items.

It’s easy to see how these rewards programs could save you money, however when they’re not used wisely, they can cost you money. The credit card, for example, if you don’t pay it off each month will cost you money in interest. 

But what about that loyalty card? How does that cost you money? Well, if you forget the card and visit the store anyway, you’re not earning anything. The card motivates you to create a habit of going to that particular store and you’re not earning your rewards if you shop elsewhere.

Tips to Take Advantage of Rewards Programs

1. Carry the rewards cards with you at all times.

2. Avoid “Credit Card” rewards cards.

3. If you do use credit card rewards programs, like credit cards that offer travel miles, make sure you pay them off at the end of each month. Don’t carry a balance – that costs you money!

4. Only participate in rewards programs that you will use. It’s so easy to sign up for rewards programs. Yet each time you do, you’re giving your personal information to another company. In the case of rewards credit cards, you’re authorizing a credit check. Too many credit checks can lower your credit score (as can too much credit.)

5. When using a rewards card, don’t assume you’re automatically getting the best price. It still pays to shop around. For example, you may be using your supermarket card and earning rewards points, but still paying more for groceries than if you’d gone to another supermarket. Reward programs don’t always translate into the least expensive option.

Rewards programs can be a great way to save you money. However, they must be used wisely. Compare prices. Don’t carry a balance on credit cards and carry your cards with you at all times.

18 April 2013

Do Yourself a Favour: Do It Yourself

Any time you pay someone else to do something that you could do yourself, you're spending money unnecessarily. This applies to little things like buying coffee instead of making your own, as well as to larger expenses such as home repairs.

Many of us buy coffee or a soft drink from a convenience store or coffee shop on the way to work in the morning. This can really add up over time. Instead, make your own coffee, or buy soft in 2-litre bottles and pour some into a smaller bottle or cup to take with you. The same applies to lunches. Instead of springing for fast food, take a sandwich or something microwavable to work.

While we're not all good at all types of repairs and maintenance, most of us can do some things for ourselves. Maybe you could change your own oil instead of paying someone else to do it. If the walls need painting, consider getting friends and family to help you do it instead of hiring a painter. Things like these can save us a noticeable amount of money right away.

When you add up the savings, little things can make a big difference to the budget. So take a close look at your budget and see what small expenses are lurking there. If you can eliminate or reduce them, it could positively impact your bottom line.

17 April 2013

25 Strategies to Stretch Your Money - No. 9

Cut cosmetic items in half. For example, if you use flat cotton pads, use your scissors to halve them. Also, cotton balls can be pulled into two pieces. If you find yourself using only one end of a cotton bud, cut them in half, too. You’ll get double the use from these products and spend less.

16 April 2013

Natural Healthy Substitutes for Sugar

Who doesn’t enjoy a sweet treat? Sugar is the one taste to which most of us take an instant liking. But how can you enjoy the benefits of sugar without the empty calories?

Sugar is a natural product. It is grown in nature and tastes good. The problem is that we eat too much of it. Sugar is added to everything. Our taste buds are dulling and we need more sugar to get the same effect that a little bit gave us in the beginning.

Sugar has no fat but it does contain a lot of calories. Adding sugar leads to empty calories being consumed. When that excess sugar is not needed by the body for fuel it is stored as fat. And, we all know what too much fat does to our bodies.

Instead of using pure cane sugar in your recipes and as a condiment, try a few sugar substitutes. Now, before you say anything, not all sugar substitutes are made for cooking and some have aftertaste. We will give you alternatives to those as well.

Stevia – This is a sugar substitute that grows from an herb. It is sweeter than table sugar so you don’t use as much. It also contains FOS, or fruit oligosaccharides. Using stevia helps aid in digestion by keeping the level of good bacteria in the intestine at an optimal level. Stevia is available in liquid, powder and tablet form.

Molasses – Blackstrap molasses is often used as a condiment and an ingredient in gingerbread and baked beans. But, its sweet taste makes it an excellent sugar substitute in porridge. Molasses contains many of the minerals that the body needs each day like iron and calcium. It is actually a byproduct of the sugar refining process.

Honey – This food is made by one of God’s creatures. Why shouldn’t we eat it? Honey comes from bees and gives us many health benefits: antibacterial, cleanser, and quiets coughs to name a couple. Honey is a natural sweetener that contains antioxidant substances. Try a little honey in your tea instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Agave nectar – This sweetener comes from plants in Mexico and Central America. The plants grow for many years and sap extracted to create the nectar or syrup. It has a low glycemic index meaning that using it won’t spike your blood sugar. It provides steady fuel and some say it tastes similar to honey. It's delicious on hot porridge. Found at your local health food shop.

Maple syrup – You put it on your pancakes, but how about in your hot cereal? It is made from the sap of the maple tree and tastes great. Even a teaspoon provides sufficient sweetness. Pure maple syrup can be used in baking too. Add it to biscuits, cakes and muffins to replace the sugar.

Sugar is not the only sweetener we can use when we want a taste of something good. Try these other natural substitutes to add that great taste to your tea, hot cereals and other food dishes.

12 April 2013

Cost Per Serving

To determine the cost per serving for a particular cut of meat, determine the number of servings per kilo for the retail cut.  Then divide the price per kilo by the number of serves to find the cost per serve.  Keep a small calculator in your handbag when shopping for meat to help with this step.  Doing this can be especially useful to compare the cost per serving of two cuts.
For example, a blade roast costs $4.59 per kilo and a boneless rump roast costs $5.29 per kilo. Which is the best buy?

1. Determine servings per kilo.
  • Chuck roast - five servings per kilo
  • Boneless rump roasts - six servings per kilo.  
2. Divide the price per kilo by the number of serves.

3. Read the cost per serving:
  • Chuck Roast -- $ .91
  • Boneless Rump Roast -- $ .88
In this example the boneless rump roast would be a slightly better buy.

Using this method to compare the cost per serving can give a truer cost per meal and thus help the household food budget.  It also helps in calculating exactly how much meat you need to buy.

11 April 2013

It's Clean Out the Fridge Day

Do you know what's lurking in the back of your fridge? Perhaps there's a science experiment or two growing on the bottom shelf or some leftovers waiting patiently at the back to be used up. You could even have some veggies wilting sadly in the crisper, ready to be used in a soup or casserole or even a good stock.

The only way you'll really know what is in your fridge, and how much money you won't be binning is to get that fridge cleaned, tidied and organized.

To get started, fill your sink with hot, soapy water.

Start with the Door

1. Empty the shelves. Put all the jars, bottles, tubes, individual sauce packs and anything else on the bench.

2. If the shelves are removable, take them off and wash them in that nice hot, soapy water and dry them thoroughly. If they aren't, get a wet washcloth and a tea towel and wash them thoroughly, wiping them dry as you go. Don't forget to wipe over the actual door panel.

3. Get a damp cloth and wipe over the seals, being sure to very carefully get into the seal proper, wiping out any crumbs and dust that have worked down into it.

4. Go through all those jars and bottles on the bench. Check the best before and use by dates. Anything past its use by, toss. Anything past its best before date, use your discretion. Anything you know you will never, ever use toss.  Empty the contents into a bowl to go into the compost and put the containers in the recycle bin.

Tip:  If you have double (or even triple) bottles and jars of the same thing, check the best before date. On the jar that expires first, put a great big No. 1 with a permanent marker. On the jar that expires next, put a great big No. 2, and so on until all the jars are done. Now you know which jar or bottle to use first. As each one empties, put it in the recycle bin.

5. Put everything back, organizing as you go. Put sauces with sauces, all the salad dressings together, mustards together etc.

The Fridge Proper

1. Start with the top shelf. Empty it completely. Remove it from the fridge and put it in the sink to soak.

2. Go through everything you have taken out. Anything you aren't sure of, compost. Put the jars, packets or tins into the recycle bin.

3. Wash and dry the inside of the fridge cabinet, don't forget the top. Unclog the drain if you have one in your fridge. Put the shelf back in place.

4. Repeat the process for the second shelf.

5. Take the crisper drawers out. Empty them, then wash and dry them thoroughly.

6. Any sad vegetables put aside to process for casseroles, stock or soup. Any science experiments add to the compost bowl.

7. Wash the sides of the fridge cabinet, paying particular attention the back and floor under the crisper drawers. These areas are notorious for catching spills and drips and hiding them until they are sticky, horrible messes.

8. Put the drawers back.

Put the Food Back

You'll have a pile and a half of food on your bench and it's time to get it back into your fridge.

How you organize your fridge is up to you.

I keep condiments, cream, sour cream, butter, eggs, cheese and containers of beetroot, pineapple and sun dried tomatoes on the top shelf. I use a lid from a Décor container that broke as a tray to hold the jam, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, mustards etc. together. The tray slides out easily so I can get what I want and it keeps the jars together.

On the second shelf I keep yeast, yoghurt, shake-n-bake, dried fruits and any prepared meals or leftovers to be used up.

On the third shelf are two Tupperware vegetable containers (full of vegetables) and blocks of cheese and butter that are waiting to be opened. I don't use the crisper drawers in our fridge for vegetables; they keep much better in the Tupperware.

On the third shelf, left-hand side is a square container. In it you'll find blocks of butter and tasty cheese, tubs of sour cream and cottage cheese. Next to it is a Tupperware container of chopped vegetables, ready to be used. The small green container holds mushrooms or spring onions. In front of it is the meat thawing for tonight's dinner.

In one crisper drawer I keep fruit: oranges, apples, mandarins, lemons etc.  In the other crisper drawer I keep vegetables. I use Gel Bags to keep the vegetables in the drawers fresh until they are used.

Organize your fridge to suit your family and the way you work.

Cleaning the Outside

Clear everything off the top of the fridge. Take all the pictures and photos and magnets off the door.

Get a damp cloth and wipe it over. Pay special attention to sticky finger marks. Wipe over with a dry tea towel as you go.

And you're done!

10 April 2013

25 Strategies to Save You Money - No. 8 Bargain, Bargain, Bargain

When shopping clearance items, speak to the sales clerk or manager and say something like, “If I buy these 3 items, could I get an additional 10% off?” Then, be willing to walk away if they say, “No.” The fact is, many department stores are now saying, “Yes” to such offers to move the items and make way for new merchandise.

If you're not sure how to bargain, or haggle, or aren't confident, download my Top 5 Haggling Tips tip sheet and get started - after all you're just asking a question.

09 April 2013

Good Gravy

Making good gravy is easy, especially when you have a good gravy mix. You don't need to buy gravy powder - you have everything you need right in your kitchen to make the best instant gravy powder around.

As with all things MOO the advantage is you control what goes into it. When you are looking for a stock powder, read the ingredients and buy one without MSG. I use Massel stock powders, they cost a little more but are 99% fat free without MSG and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.  They are truly concentrated which means you use less to get the same flavour.

Beef Gravy Mix

1/2 cup plain flour
3 tbsp beef stock
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground thyme

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make gravy, whisk 1/4 cup of gravy mix with 1 cup of boiling water (or vegetable stock or pan juices or milk) in a large heat-proof jug until there are no lumps and the gravy has thickened.  If the gravy is too thick add a little more boiling water, whisking well. 

Chicken Gravy Mix

1 1/3 cups skim milk powder
3/4 cup plain flour
3 tbsp chicken stock powder
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground thyme

Combine all ingredients and store an airtight container.

To make chicken gravy melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan. Whisk 1/2 cup gravy mix into 1 cup of water (or milk if you want a rich gravy) until there are no lumps.  Add to the saucepan and whisk the butter into the gravy mixture. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and simmer 1 minute until the gravy thickens, stirring constantly.  Add more liquid for a thinner gravy.

These recipes make the equivalent of four packets of flavoured gravy mix.

08 April 2013

A Winter Warmie

All of a sudden the nights have cooled down. It's to be expected, we are into April, so I shouldn't have been surprised when I was up early on Friday morning and it was chilly. I had planned to do some officework before everyone was up and about for the day, but it was cold. What a dilemma - to work or to go back to bed, where it was cosy and comfortable and - well work won out.

I have a dark green warmie that I wrap over my shoulders when I rush out to the clothesline on cold days. My arms and hands are free to move around but I am toasty warm. So, off to the linen cupboard I went and pulled out my warmie.

Warmies are simply polar fleece capes made long enough to wrap over your knees when you are sitting down. They are great to curl up in on the lounge or in a chair and because they are made from polar fleece they are extra warm and easy to wash and dry. They are also really, really easy to make (and very cheap too).

To make a warmie you need 2.5 metres of 150cm wide polar fleece (if you are tall, make it 3 metres of fabric).

Step 1. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, selvedge together and lay it out flat. I lay it out on the floor.

Step 2. Measure up 1.25metres and mark across the width of the folded fabric. You can use tailor’s chalk or pins.

Step 3. To cut out the neckline and front opening measure in approximately 12cm along the mark. Place a pin at this spot.

Step 4.
Using a bread and butter plate draw the curve for the neckline in to meet the pin.

Step. 5
With sharp scissors cut along the curve (remember it will be twice as wide when you open the fabric out) and then cut down along the fold. This forms the front of your warmie.

You should now have a cape that you can wrap over your shoulders or over your knees.

I use polar fleece to make these rugs because you don’t need to hem it. Just cut and go. Polar fleece is also very cheap. It also comes in such a wide range of plain colours and fabulous patterns that you can make them to match your furnishings or even to complement an outfit.

05 April 2013

Breakfast for Dinner

Is there a family out there who doesn't enjoy a little breakfast for dinner every once in a while?  I think most families have done the meal flip-flop a few times.  A simple plate of fried eggs, bacon and baked beans or even a stack of pancakes with syrup for the evening meal just puts a smile on everyone's face.  But I know we can do better than that!

One way to create dinner from breakfast ingredients, while keeping the meal special, is with a breakfast casserole.  I first found breakfast casseroles about 25 years ago, when I was catering for a church camp and needed easy to throw together, but tasty and cheap breakfast ideas. I've been hooked ever since.  The eggs provide all the protein you need for a dinner, and bulking it out with leftover or sad vegetables is not only a delicious option, but also frugal and healthy.

And did I mention they are easy? Many of them can be done in your slow-cooker - you can't get a much easier dinner than that, making them ideal for busy days and late dinners.

Even if someone in your family claims they don't like eggs for dinner, a breakfast casserole will make a believer out of them.  For this discussion, we're not going to talk about serving pancakes or even scrambled or fried eggs.  Casseroles are a familiar, comforting dish for many people at dinnertime.  This fact may help even a picky eater warm to the idea of breakfast for dinner.

My family absolutely loves breakfast for dinner. They really think it's a treat, they just don't believe me when I tell them I'm just cleaning out the fridge or having a slack night. The boys especially love it, I'm sure it takes the place of take-away for them.

And I love it because it's almost a no brainer. If I am very tired or very rushed, breakfast for dinner can be thrown together in under 5 minutes and the jobs done.  I can then focus on other things until the oven timer dings. And dinner is on the table - I put the casserole dish straight onto the table and everyone helps themselves.

Again, we can look at the frugal aspect of serving breakfast for dinner.  Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein and other nutrients.  Another frugal factor is in using leftovers.  Making a breakfast casserole can be a great way to use up food that might otherwise be thrown out.  That last serving of broccoli is sitting there staring at you day after day from the refrigerator.  Rather than throw it out, throw it in with the eggs and you have the beginnings of a breakfast casserole.

Need more ideas?  Say you had fajitas for dinner the other night and you have some strips of  steak and a little seasoned capsicum left.  No one really wants to see fajitas more than once in a week.  So, what else can you do with the leftovers so they don't end up in the garbage?  Toss a breakfast casserole together with the steak, capsicum, some grated carrots, diced celery, toasted croutons and sage, mix in the eggs and you've got a totally different dinner.  You have saved yourself from tossing those leftovers and created an original meal just by adding eggs and a few carefully chosen ingredients.

Use a variety of fresh vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, kale (if you haven't tried kale yet, do - you'll love it and it's so good for you), zucchini, cauliflower, green beans and sweet potatoes to create a wide selection of breakfast casseroles.  Add a layer of grated potato, whole grain bread, croutons, crushed weetbix, crushed crackers or potato chips or even cooked rice to the casserole.  Think of the flavuors you like together, put them in layers in an oiled baking dish and bring them all together in one meal just by adding eggs.

If you are looking to cut back on how often you serve meat or poultry for dinner, a breakfast casserole may be the perfect dish.  Eggs are a great replacement for meat because they are protein-rich and cheap.  Adding milk and cheese to your breakfast casserole brings the calcium level up.  There's no reason to eat meat seven days a week when you have eggs that will do just as well.  Create filling casseroles using eggs several times a week and you could save quite a bit on your grocery budget.  And there are plenty of options for ingredients to keep the casseroles interesting.

The next time you're looking for an inexpensive, filling, healthy meal for dinner, think about turning some of those familiar breakfast foods into dinner.  Eggs are an excellent solution to the problem of what to serve for dinner that's healthy and frugal.  But, you don't need to fry up a few eggs for dinner.  Get creative with other ingredients and create a breakfast casserole that fits right in with your family's tastes.  We talk about comfort food a lot, right?  Well, what's more comforting than a frugal yet nourishing casserole?  It's time to think... what would you put in a breakfast casserole for dinner tonight?

03 April 2013

25 Strategies to Stretch Your Money - No. 7

Cook More

Families are on the run these days so they eat out a lot more than their budgets can take.

Develop a list of five to ten quick and healthy meals you can make with little effort in under 30 minutes. Next to each meal list the ingredients you need to make them. Keep these ingredients in your kitchen all the time. Then, put copies of your list in your car, wallet, purse and stuck on the fridge.

At the end of a busy day, when you can't be bothered thinking about what to eat, you don't have to - just check the list, pick a meal and in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered or even drive to your favourite restaurant you'll have dinner on the table.

Now, there’s no excuse to spend money eating out on the fly!

02 April 2013

Chocolate Meringue Pie

Wayne's favourite dessert is a lemon meringue pie, but when we don't have lemons (or lemon juice in the freezer) this chocolate meringue pie comes a very close second.

1 cup caster sugar
1 cup milk
3 tbsp cocoa
3 tbsp cornflour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
125g butter
1 pre-cooked pie shell

Separate eggs. Put egg yolks and all of remaining ingredients (except pie shell) into a large saucepan. Cook on medium to medium low heat,  whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and cook a further one minute until mixture has thickened. Pour into prepared pie shell.


4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks start to form.  Add sugar pouring slowly in as you continue to beat on high. Add  vanilla continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form. Spoon onto pie filling. Make sure you cover right to the edge of the pie to stop the air getting in.  This will stop the meringue weeping and falling. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until meringue is set and golden.

01 April 2013

Pretty Ribbon Bookmarks

My niece asked me if I could make some craft items for a stall. Her school (she's in Grade 4) is having a fundraising fair, with the funds raised going to the Red Nose Day appeal. How could I say no, especially when B is so very cute and it's such a good cause?

So, with time being at a premium, I was looking for something quick and easy that I could make with things already in the craft drawers. I had a plentiful supply of ribbon, cardstock and scrapbooking embellishments so bookmarks it was.

These bookmarks are so very pretty, very handy and a wonderful way to use up those little lengths of ribbon every crafter seems to collect.

You will need:
Ribbon of different widths - one narrow, one a little wider
Spray adhesive or a good fabric glue (I use the Lincraft spray adhesive, there are lots of different brands available though)
Card stock
Hole punch
Adhesive flowers (I used scrapbooking embellishments)

Step 1. Place the narrow ribbon on the wider ribbon. Trim the ends to fit. Spray the narrow ribbon with the adhesive and stick it to the wider ribbon. Press it down firmly.

Step 2. Trim the ends of the ribbon with fabric scissors so they are even.

Step 3.
Punch or cut two pieces of card stock. You can use a round shape or a flower or even a square. Glue two punched-out pieces of card stock at top of the ribbon, one on each side, to make a tab. Press them together firmly.

Step 4. Attach your adhesive flower or sticker or whatever embellishment to the card stock.