31 December 2014

If It's a Different Face, Save It

I've been saving my $5 notes as well as any coin that has something different on the face (Federation etc.). Just this weekend, I counted up all this money I've been saving, and found I had $160. I was able to go on a shopping trip and buy things without having to use my credit card. Excellent way of saving, and you can reward yourself for doing so.
Contributed by Ainslee

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30 December 2014

Paprika Sausages with Mushrooms

Sometimes you just want a simple, tasty, cheap meal and this recipe contributed by Cheapskater Penny, and from the Cheapskates Club Recipe File, fits the bill perfectly. After the indulgences of Christmas having something so basic as a sausage and then jazzing it up with some flavour and texture, tastes like pure home-cooked luxury.

When I did my quarterly meat shop in early December Tasman Meats had sausages on sale. AJ had been asking for sausages so I added them to the meal plan and was more than happy to be able to buy them at $3.99/kg. I am not a huge fan of sausages, but I do like the ones Tasman produce. They're not too fatty, not too spicy, aren't full of gristle and they are usually an excellent price. So we have sausages in the freezer and on the meal plan. And AJ is happy :)

This recipe is comfort food, plain and simple and it is just as comforting in December as it is in July and it's a nice break from salad and leftovers at this time of year. Serve it over steamed rice or mash and enjoy.

Paprika Sausages with Mushrooms

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 - 3 tsp paprika (your favourite type will work beautifully)
125g button mushrooms, sliced
425g can chopped peeled tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
500g sausages
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat oil in a large pan and cook onions for 1 minute or until soft. Stir in paprika. Add mushrooms, tomatoes with juice and season to taste. Cook uncovered over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. While sauce is cooking, cook sausages under grill until cooked through and browned. Remove sausages from heat and cut into chunks. Mix through sauce and heat. Top each serving with a spoonful of sour cream and sprinkle with paprika. Serve with cooked rice to stretch further, great heated up the next day.

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27 December 2014

Lunch the Day After the Day After Christmas

In our house it is leftovers - again! Hopefully the last of the Christmas leftovers. We have Haystacks for tea tonight, so today for lunch I took the last of the chicken and turkey and made pies using filo pastry for a change (and to use the pack of filo I found at the back of the little freezer!). They were delicious. They were fresh. They are all gone!

How did I whip up these gourmet delights? I just cleaned out the fridge.

I have childhood memories of eating Christmas Day leftovers until after the New Year. I don't remember anyone getting sick, I just remember having leftovers for breakfast, lunch and tea for what seemed like forever.

These days I'd rather not use leftovers after they are about 4 - 5 days old so if they're not portioned, packed and frozen immediately they are turned into another meals as quickly as possible. With this year's Christmas leftovers the boys made pita pizzas yesterday. They used chicken, barbecue sauce, capsicum, onion, pineapple and cheese as the toppings and they were delicious.

So today I made the pies to use up the last of the chicken and turkey (we are not really turkey fans, but other family members love it so it was on our table on Christmas Day). Those pies were amazing. They were so good here's how I made them - if you have leftovers (or not, they really are that good I'd cook chicken just to make them) give them a try.

Christmas Pot Pies

3 - 4 cups cooked chicken and/or turkey*
2 sticks celery, sliced,
1 medium carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup peas
4 tbsp butter, divided
Pinch salt
Cracked black pepper for seasoning
6 sheets filo pastry
2 cups thick white sauce** (or 1 tin cream of chicken or cream of celery soup)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp tarragon (optional)
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan. Add the celery, carrot and onion and cook without browning until the celery and onion are clear.

Remove from the heat and add the peas and the chicken and/or turkey. Mix well.

Stir through the white sauce, parmesan and tarragon.

Butter six ramekins.

Divide the chicken mixture between the ramekins. Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter.

Prepare the filo by buttering a sheet then laying the second sheet on top. Butter the second sheet and lay the third sheet on top. Continue buttering and layering until you've done all six sheets.

Cut the filo into six rectangles.

Brush the edges of the ramekins with the beaten egg.

Place a filo stack on top of each ramekin. Brush the tops of each pie with the beaten egg.

Now you can either push down on the edges to seal and then trim the excess pastry or you can simply take the handle of a teaspoon and gently push the excess pastry down into the ramekin, between the side and the filling, to seal the pie.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky and the filling is hot through.

*You can use chicken, turkey or a combination. I used a combination of leftover meats for these pies and they were delicious.

**You could also use leftover cheese sauce if you have it.

If you have a pie maker use it to make the pies instead of turning the oven on. You can use filo in the pie maker, or regular shortcrust for the base and puff for the top. You should get two pies from one sheet of pastry (two bases and two tops) so you'll need three sheets to make six pie maker pies.

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26 December 2014

Sale Success

I can't show you everything we bought, they are gifts and I don't want to spoil the surprise for anyone!
Hannah and I left home at 7.30 this morning to head to a near-by shopping centre for the Boxing Day sales.

We left home with our lists, our money and a plan to divide and conquer and we came home with everything on our lists (yay!), money in our purses, smiles on our faces and sore feet.

When we arrived at the shops Hannah went one way and I headed off to wait for Kmart to open. I knew exactly what I wanted and I was hoping I'd be able to find them. I'd tried to get them on Christmas Eve at our local Kmart and they were sold out so I was a little anxious as I had my heart set on these things.

While I was waiting for the store to open, I chatted to two lovely women, both waiting with lists and ideas of what they wanted to buy. Like me, they were shopping ahead for wrapping paper, decorations and next year's birthday and Christmas gifts. When the door opened we parted ways, and I know one of the women managed to get all her things because I bumped into her later on.

I picked up birthday gifts for family and friends. The 2015 Christmas list has shrunk too, with gifts for two thirds of the list crossed off.  And I've wrapped and labelled the presents and stashed them safely in the box in my wardrobe.

I'll be honest and say shopping hasn't excited me this much in ages. Everything I bought was at least 50% off, some things even more.  I picked up stocking stuffers and some small gifts for the kids and Wayne for next year. Nothing cost more than $17, and that was one specific item I had budgeted for. Everything else was $7 or under! It was so much fun finding the things on the list and crossing them off, making a note of how much I didn't spend. I left home with $300 in my purse and I came home with $187.30. More than half my gift list for birthdays, Christmas and other things for 2015 has been crossed off. Woo hoo! I even managed to pick up the decorations I've had my eye on for months and a new every day handbag for me (now I can retire the old one that is well past it's use by date). The leftover money has already been moved across to the slush fund.

Morning tea was courtesy of a gift card I was given for  Christmas, a real treat for us and we both enjoyed the chance to sit down and review our lists. Hannah was thrilled with her shopping too. She had gift cards for JB Hi-Fi and a list of DVDs she particularly wanted. She was able to get them all, on sale, and still have credit on her gift cards to use later.

We had a wonderful 3 hours. The shops were crowded but everyone was happy and relaxed, no pushing or shoving or whining. The queues were long but again, everyone was happy and relaxed.

Now we're home, the shopping has been put away and the house tidied up once more. Wayne and AJ have gone to trains. Tom is busy with friends and Hannah and I are about to settle down and watch a movie (or two) and relax.

Did you tackle the Boxing Day sales?
Did you have a list of things to buy?
Did you buy ahead for 2015? Did you cross them off your list?
And have you moved the money you saved over to your slush fund or your emergency fund or to pay down a debt?

Savings for Christmas - Next Year!

I always love Boxing Day sales but not just for larger expensive items. I always head to my local Coles supermarket first thing in the morning to stock up on Christmas wrapping supplies to put aside for the following year. Most shops always reduce their Christmas stock on Boxing Day to clear. Wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, cards, gift tags etc. are all at least 50% off. This year however I found some great wrapping paper in plain colours without any Christmas designs or pictures on them. I purchased two 6m rolls, one in plain gold and one in plain silver for only $1.15 a roll and a 15m roll with blue and purple stars on it for only $1.74. Although these are in traditional Christmas colours they don't have any Christmas pictures or writing on them. I can use them for birthdays, Father's Days, Mother's Day, weddings etc. and for a fraction of the price. I also purchased ribbons and packets of bows for as little as 67 cents that although as also in Christmas colours - gold, silver, red, green, blue are equally suitable for other occasions. I saved about $30 in total.
Contributed by Anna

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24 December 2014

Saving with the Boxing Days Sales

Being an avid bargain hunter the very best shopping day of the year is Boxing Day, when the after Christmas sales begin and there are bargains galore to be had for the taking - or rather the buying.

Getting up early, eating a good breakfast, dressing in comfy clothes and shoes and packing bottles of chilled water and packets of munchies just adds to the excitement of the day. Checking my purse to make sure I have my Christmas money safely tucked inside is the last thing I do before I head out the door, ready to go straight to my shopping centre of choice (it varies from year to year, depending on what bargains I'm after) nice and early. I like to get an undercover car park if I can during summer and on the day the Boxing Day sales start I need to be early - really, really early.

It's all part of the fun of the bargain hunting. Hours have been spent poring over the junk mail and listening to the ads on TV, store websites have been thoroughly scanned for specials and bonuses. Lists have been made - things for the house, things for the children, gifts to be bought for during the year, even next year's Christmas gift list has been started.

Having a plan of attack (it really is like a bunfight sometimes) will help you get through the day in one piece and still sane. Use a list to know where you have to be first, you'll want to get the most important things one your list first so you don't miss out, then work through the other items you want to buy. If something is really important to you then don't hesitate, buy it straight away. Yes, it may be further reduced a few days later but you also run the risk of missing out. Can you live with that? Or would you rather buy it at the originally reduced price and run the risk of it being reduced again later on?

The after Christmas sales are the perfect time to buy Christmas specific things. Wrapping paper, ribbons, cards, fabrics, decorations, even food will be greatly reduced and could be worth buying. Remember, if you already have enough wrapping paper covered in reindeer and Santa and boxes of Christmas cards to last you the next 10 years I'd say you probably don't need any more. But if the wrapping paper comes in plain colours or less specific patterns it can be used for birthdays, weddings, new babies etc. and buying it cheaply will save you money.

It's also a fantastic time to add to your collection of decorations, with items being up to 75% off the original retail price. Lights, lawn decorations, tinsels, wreaths, tree ornaments and craft items can be bought now and stored with your current decorations ready for next Christmas.

One mum I know buys each of her children a new tree ornament each year during the sales. She is putting them into a box, labelled with each of their names, so that when they leave home they'll have a set of decorations for their Christmas tree. I think this is a lovely idea and picking up the ornaments during the sales she is getting much nicer items at rock bottom prices.

Thinking outside the square can save you big bucks. Fairy lights can be used not just for Christmas but for birthdays, to light outdoor patios, to turn a little girl's bedroom into a fairy grotto, just use your imagination. After Christmas they can be reduced by up to 80%, a great saving.

The after Christmas sales can also impact your grocery budget. You'll find turkeys, hams, duck and chicken all reduced after Christmas. Chocolates, puddings, custards and lollies will be reduced as well and they can all be put away for birthdays, Easter and other celebrations through the year. Just check the best before and use by dates so they'll be in peak condition when you go to use them.

Hampers and gift packs are big business at Christmas time and after Christmas they are reduced by anything up to 90%, depending on what they are. I buy hampers, especially toiletries and cosmetics and break them up to use as teacher gifts and small thank-you gifts throughout the year.

It would be easy to go crazy during the after Christmas sales and buy everything that catches your eye. Be strong, don't go crazy and buy because it's there. Shop with a plan and a purpose and you'll be a happy shopper at the end of the day.

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23 December 2014

Christmas Morning Breakfast Tart

Christmas morning has always been busy in our house. We get up early to open presents with the kids and then our guests start arriving around 7.30am for breakfast. Wayne cooks sausages, bacon and eggs on the barbecue while the kids toast English muffins. I prepare this tart the night before, browning the sausage mince and preparing the egg mixture, ready to just put it all together and in the oven when I get up. We have sides of grilled tomatoes and mushrooms with tea, coffee and  fruit juice and everyone starts what is generally a very busy day well fed and relaxed.

Christmas Morning Breakfast Tart

250g sausage mince, browned, drained and crumbled
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese*
1/2 cup grated Tasty cheese
1 x 22cm unbaked pastry shell (bought or make one using Elaine's Easy Pastry recipe)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped red capsicum
1/4 cup chopped green capsicum
1 large tomato, sliced

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Place cooked crumbled mince in a large mixing bowl. Fold in both cheeses.  Place pie shell in a pie plate.  Place the sausage mixture in the pie shell. Whisk eggs, milk, onion and capsicum in a separate bowl, making sure eggs are blended in well.  Pour the egg mixture over mince mixture. Place the sliced tomato on top of the casserole. Bake one hour or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.  

*If you don't have Swiss cheese, and I often don't, use cheddar, mozzarella, or whatever cheese you have.

This doesn't have to be a breakfast dish. Serve it with a salad and crusty bread and it makes a great lunch or dinner meal too.

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22 December 2014

Last Minute Homemade Gift Ideas

No matter how organized you are there is usually someone extra you need a gift for. Before you rush out and buy something, take a look at this list of quick, easy and budget friendly gift ideas.

Grandma's Shortbread

The best shortbread ever! And it's easy too. Use a star shaped cutter to cut out the biscuits, then when they are cooked and cooled stack six in a pile and tie with red ribbon for a festive look.

Grandma's Shortbread
250g butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup rice flour

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flours together. Using your hands gradually work the flours into the butter mixture until combined. Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Roll out to 2cm thick. Cut into fingers or circles. Put on buttered biscuit trays. Prick tops with a fork. Sprinkle with castor sugar.  Bake until firm and light golden at edges, about 20 minutes.  Cool then store in an air tight tin.

Caramel Corn 

Takes about 10 minutes to make. Package in a large jar. Cut a topper from Christmas paper to cover the lid and tie it on with raffia, string or curling ribbon. Stick the gift label to the jar.

Caramel Corn
20 cups pop corn
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup condensed milk
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Spread the popcorn in a thin layer in shallow, greased baking pans.  Preheat oven to 120 degrees Celsius.  Combine the brown sugar, condensed milk and butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over a medium heat. Boil for five minutes, stirring continuously.  Remove from the heat and stir in the bicarb soda and vanilla essence, beating well. The mixture should be light and foamy.  Immediately pour over the popcorn. Stir with a fork to mix. Don't worry too much if not the popcorn isn't completely covered with the caramel.  Place into preheated oven and bake for one hour, stirring completely  every fifteen minutes.  Remove from oven and empty onto sheets of baking paper. Break the caramel corn into bite size pieces. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Variation:  Bliss Bombs - add 2 cups unsalted peanuts to the popcorn before covering with the caramel mixture.

MOO Taco Seasoning 

Whip up a batch and put it in a jar. Print off the recipe, fold it into four and attach it to the jar with a ribbon. Cover the lid with paper and tie on with raffia, ribbon or string.

MOO Taco Seasoning
2 tsp ground chilli powder (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground oregano
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together and store in a small, air tight jar. To use: 3 tablespoonfuls is the equivalent of 1 packet of commercial taco seasoning mix.

Russian Caramels 

Make a batch and put them on a doily covered paper plate. Cover with cellophane or clingwrap, stick a bow in the middle. You can include the recipe if you think the recipient would like it.

Russian Caramels
125g butter
250g sugar
1 tin condensed milk
vanilla essence

Melt the butter first, then add the sugar and condensed milk. Stir constantly until the mixture boils. Still stirring, allow to boil for 15 minutes then add 1 or two teaspoons vanilla and remove from heat. By this time the mixture should be the colour of light caramel. Test for setting in cold water. Pour into a buttered pan and when cold cut into small squares with a sharp knife.

Two Minute Fudge

This microwave fudge makes a slice tray full for around $6.

Two-Minute Fudge
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts (macadamia, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts or a combination)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Put the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30 second bursts until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the microwave. Stir in the nuts and vanilla extract. Mix well. Pour into a foil lined and buttered slice tray. Chill for 2 hours before cutting into small squares.

Cheapskates Washing Powder 

Either make a batch and put it in an ice-cream container or get the ingredients and bundle them together in a small box or gift bag. Include a copy of the Tip Sheet.

Cheapskates Washing Powder
1 bar soap, grated
1 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda)
1/2 cup borax

Mix together and store in a sealed container. Use 3 scant teaspoons per load for a top-loader and 1 scant teaspoon per load for a front loader.

A Starter Garden

Fill an egg carton with potting mix or good soil from your garden. Put a seed in each pod. Use the lid of the egg carton as the tray to hold the pods. Make a plant label from an icy pole stick or cut an empty (and washed out) milk bottle into sticks. Use a permanent marker to write the plant name and pop it into one of the pods. Include the seed packet and wrap the lot in cellophane. Choose a seed that has a good germination rate (peas are ideal and grow year round).

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20 December 2014

I Went Away for a Week…….

A very cute baby pumpkin, one I'm hoping will grow into a nice big pumpkin
I went away for a week, leaving the garden, worms and compost in the kids' capable hands.

The garden was just starting to set fruit (or vegetables as the case may be). There was one tiny pumpkin. Baby Queensland Blue pumpkins are so cute, they look like tiny little green crowns. One tiny Mortgage Lifter tomato, although all the bushes had gazillions of flowers. One cute little green capsicum. The tiniest of little cucumbers. The very beginning of an eggplant was forming. The lime, mandarin and orange trees were covered in blossom. The lettuce were doing well and the basil and mint were starting to grow.

I was away for a week, I came home to a transformed backyard.

The pumpkins have taken over. They've spread over the compost heap. Grown along the western fence and down the side of the house. Crept out of their bed and sneakily followed the edge of the garden to grow almost three metres, sending tendrils out into the grass. And there are more babies - another three little Queensland Blue "crowns". I'm so excited, last year's pumpkin crop was dismal and I ended up buying a couple over winter.

The tomatoes have shot up and those gazillion flowers have started to turn into tomatoes. Mortgage Lifter, Amish Paste and for the life of me I can't remember what the other ones are. They are all producing fruit and I picked the first tomato for the season tonight! We are all busting to have fresh tomatoes again for our salads and sandwiches.

The six eggplant are all covered in blossom and have grown around 15 centimetres. They are all setting fruit. We love eggplant, either on its own or in Moussaka or baba ganoush. Yum!

That little capsicum was big enough to pick, which is what I did last night and used it in our dinner. The other five plants have all set fruit and it looks like we'll have a bumper capsicum crop this year too.

Sadly the lettuce bolted! I've pulled them out and planted more. The basil has bolted too, so pesto and drying what I can are on my list of chores for tomorrow. I've pinched off the flowers so hopefully the leaves will continue to grow and  we'll have fresh basil for the summer. I usually pinch the flowers as soon as they appear to keep the plant going, hopefully leaving it a few days won't matter.

The fruit trees are covered in limes, mandarins and oranges. We've never had so much fruit on the trees. I'm looking forward to making marmalade and cordial as well as eating our own fruit this summer.

The beans are going great guns. I've picked and processed two handfuls every day this week. The stack of beans in the freezer is growing.

Our veggie patch is one of the prettiest things I've seen in a long time, it brings joy to my heart. It is already feeding us, and will continue to feed us through the summer into autumn and with what I preserve well into winter. Maybe longer if it keeps growing the way it has the last week or so.

Wayne's just come in and said the pumpkin vine has grown around 30 centimetres (a foot) since he cut the grass on Thursday afternoon. I can believe it and I'm grinning at the thought of all those pumpkins.

12 December 2014

Easy Wrapping with Oven Bags

I love this tip. I've been using oven bags to wrap awkward gifts for more years than I really care to remember. I just use the generic bags, 10 to a box for around $2.80 for small to medium sized parcels. For larger parcels, buckets, small boxes and baskets I use the turkey bags - they are usually big enough to contain the gift and have a little over for taping or tying.

They always look great finished with a bow and some curling ribbon but even better they save a whole lot of time and gift wrapping angst.

"I have discovered oven bags for gift wrapping. I recently gave mugs with Minties and chocolates to teachers for Christmas. To buy cellophane by the sheet is a dollar or more. A generic brand of oven bags costs under $3 for a pack of 10. For a much cheaper price I was able to wrap the mug filled with goodies and tie it with curling ribbon. It was easier to put together than juggling four corners of cellophane and looks great. This would work well for any combination pack gift you want to put together. What about a bag full of baking goodies with a recipe! A selection of toiletries or stationery, bagged up and tied with inexpensive ribbon. Once you start, the possibilities are endless."
Contributed by Julie

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11 December 2014

Laminated Photo Placemats

One year I asked the kids to design placemats with each guests name and a colourful picture that related to that guest or a Christmas themed picture.

They decorated them with glitter and lovely bright colours on photocopy paper. Then once they were dry I put them through the laminator so they were spill proof.

When the guests arrived they were overjoyed with the personal touch added to the Christmas table and they all took them home as a souvenir. You could also add place-cards as well.
Contributed by Linda

10 December 2014

A Real Australian Christmas

I was asked recently (and the story aired tonight on A Current Affair) to comment on the number of Aussie Christmas staples that aren't really Australian.

When Allison first called me I was literally putting the last of my December/Christmas/New Year/January groceries away, I had to call her back. I shopped for December and January, including the celebration days last Friday so now I don't need to set foot in a supermarket or a butcher until February (yay, doing a very happy dance!).

For this family pretty much everything we'll be eating and drinking over Christmas and the New Year will be Australian grown or made.

Nibblies will be MOO pita chips with MOO dips, veggie sticks, homemade popping candy Santas and of course the obligatory chocolate almonds and sultanas. The almonds and sultanas aren't Australian, nor I think is the popping candy - I've thrown the packet out so I don't have one here to confirm.

All our salad veggies will be from our garden: tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber, lettuce, basil, mint, spring onions, red onions, garlic, cabbage and cauliflower.

Our chicken is Australian grown and processed (and bought for $7.44 from Aldi, marked down from $11.44 and put in the freezer).

The Christmas pudding and cake have been made from a family recipe using Australian fruit, butter, flour and sugar. Sadly the spices aren't Australian.

I will make the pavlova and sponge for the trifle from scratch. I'll use the egg yolks from the pav to make the sponge for the trifle - nothing goes to waste. The strawberries for the pav are from our very own strawberry patch in the backyard. I'll make the custard for the trifle from scratch using Australian cornflour, eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla (although the vodka  I used to make the vanilla extract isn't Australian).

The shortbread we eat for afternoon tea on Christmas Day will be made from Australian flour, sugar and butter, using my mother's recipe (it's in the Recipe File, called "Grandma's Shortbread"). The mince pies are Australian, with pastry made from scratch using Australian flour and butter and my Slow Cooker Fruit Mince as the filling.

Drinks on Christmas Day will depend on what's ready. There should be ginger beer and rhubarb champagne, they've both been made and bottled. There will definitely be orange and lemon cordial.

Our tea on Christmas night will be Australian too - leftovers! We're a traditional kind of family and Christmas Dinner leftovers are traditionally tea in our family.

Is it hard to have an Australian grown Christmas? No!

Is it more expensive to have an Australian grown Christmas? No!

Is it better to have an Australian grown Christmas? YES!

We Aussies are losing not only industry but farms and food producers too. And when those farms and food producers are gone, they are gone for good. We will never get them back. We will lose jobs. We will lose money. We will lose food quality. We will be stuck, or rather held to ransom, by whatever imports we can get.

When you do your grocery shopping for this Christmas try to see where your food is actually coming from, and if you can, buy Australian grown, made and owned. And have a very merry, Aussie Christmas.

05 December 2014

Stocking Fillers That Make Kids and Mum Happy

I fill my children's Christmas stockings with useful things like novelty toothbrushes and toothpaste, reams of coloured paper, bubbles, play doh, bubble bath. I try and buy for example a large bottle of bubble bath for each of them so three big bottles of bubble bath lasts us the year. I don't give them these types of things during the year so they are a treat at Christmas time. I always check the clearance tables at the supermarkets and departments stores and find I can pick them up cheaply through the year. Their stockings are full and they feel like they have lots of presents and I am happy because most of it is consumables that we use!
Contributed by Tanya

04 December 2014

Peg Up the Cards

My Christmas card were always blowing all over the place when the doors and windows were left open for a cool breeze. Now I peg them to the Christmas tree for decorations, this decorates the tree with others best wishes, and means that you don't have to pick up the card every time the door or window is open for the breeze.
Contributed by Jen

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03 December 2014

Everyday Ways to Live Like a Cheapskate - Part 5 Dairy Products

1. Cheese is generally more expensive at the deli counter than it is in the dairy section. Aldi has 1 kilo blocks of tasty cheese for $6 and the blocks are the right shape for a single slice to fit a slice of bread.

2. To make margarine go further combine 500g softened margarine with 1 cup buttermilk (MOO it by adding 1tsp lemon juice to 1 cup of milk or it is available in the dairy cabinet at most supermarkets these days) and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. Mix well. Store in refrigerator in container with a tightly fitting lid. Tastes just like butter and stays soft.

3. I love shopping after 9pm. The supermarket can be quite busy at this time, but often dairy products are marked down at and the queue at the checkout isn't as long.

4.Try to eat only the recommended amounts of dairy products. You'll still be getting the nutrients your body needs, but you won't be paying for food you don't need or adding extra kilojoules.

5. Use skim milk powder to make mixes for drinking and cooking.

6. Substitute plain yoghurt for sour cream. Make up half and half milk. Mix half fresh milk with an equal quantity of made-up powdered milk. Chill well and no-one will know the difference.

7. Try making your own yoghurt. You can save around $3.80 a kilo by making it at home.

8. Buy block cheese and grate it by hand. You'll save up to $9.00 a kilo for five minutes of time. Add a teaspoon of cornflour to the grated cheese before freezing and it won't stick together in clumps.

9. Long Life Milk comes in a wide variety of milk types and is often on special. This means you can stock up while the milk is on special and have the carton of milk ready to place in the fridge when you need it.

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28 November 2014

What is Your Best Price?

Bartering and haggling over the price of goods is common practise in some countries, not so much here in Australia. I like to haggle over prices, so much so that I've run "Haggle School" a couple of times. I especially like to haggle if I have cash and intend to purchase that item at that time.

Cheapskater Claire Martin likes to haggle too, and shares some of her best haggling for success tips.

"We all know the saying, “if you don’t ask, you don’t receive". Many stores have the displayed retail price, or a sale price, and then there’s another price you may not know about and one which they don't advertise. Its usually known as “their best price”. Stores are desperate to separate you from your hard earned money, so by asking “what is your best price for cash” you can often get the item cheaper. Retailers have to pay large percentages to the banks for the credit card and eftpos facilities, so the magic words to add to your question is “for cash”. The cost of savings can vary, depending on the item, and of course, depending on the retailer. But the savings are there, just ask the question."

27 November 2014

Easy Open with a Nutcracker

Due to arthritis it's hard to open bottles with screw tops, and ring pull cans. I use a simple nutcracker (about $3, or free with nuts at Christmas!) for bottles, and I can use it with either hand. Gadgets or special tools can cost from $10 up. For ring pull cans, I use the handle of a tablespoon to pull the ring and lever it up. Saves about $5-$10 for a special gadget.
Contributed by Jan

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25 November 2014

Slower Cooker Christmas Pudding

This recipe was contributed to the Recipe File by Cheapskater Belinda Pettitt and it is just brilliant. It's not only economical, costing just $4.60 to make, but easy and delicious too. If you haven't made your Christmas pudding yet, don't despair. With this recipe there is no need to watch a boiling pot for hours on end while the pudding steams. Instead drag out the slow cooker and let it works it's magic to perfectly steam your Christmas pudding.

Slower Cooker Christmas Pudding

500 g mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup brown sugar
90 g butter
1/3 cup sherry or brandy
1/2 teaspoon bi-carb soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup SR flour
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

In a saucepan, combined fruit, sugar, butter and sherry, heat until melted and mixture boils. Remove from heat add bi-carb and allow to cool completely. Grease a 6 cup capacity pudding bowl. Add eggs, flour, and spice to cooled mixture and mix until well combined. Pour mixture into pudding bowl, cover with a double layer of foil and tie firmly with string to form a good seal. Place into slow cooker and pour sufficient water to come two thirds way up sides of bowl. Cover and cook on HIGH for 5-7 hours.