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.

24 November 2014

What can I do with the square bread clips now that the bag is empty?

I use these to close other bags in lunchboxes. They also make handy clothes pegs on the clotheshorse. Using these "pegs" to hang the washing means I get more on the horse and it dries faster because it's not doubled over. Bread tags can be used as bookmarks too.

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21 November 2014

Cheapskates Grocery Shopping Secrets

I never wanted to be a working mum. I admit I really do enjoy working but I like being a mum too. Finding ways to maintain the lifestyle we like without me having to work outside our home and leave the kids was the only way we could do this.

I have made eating well cheaply my job - it's the way I can stay home with my kids. The Cheapskates way is not for everyone. There are those who know me who look absolutely horrified when I say I've spent the day cooking buckets of free apples or whipped the butter with powdered milk, oil and water to double it to make it go further.

Saving money - on anything - has to be something that a person really wants to do.

If a woman working part-time can cut just $100 a week from the grocery bill, that's $5,200 dollars a year. That money is probably all she needs to be able to stay home if that's what she wants. Add to this the savings on childcare, petrol, convenience meals etc and she has most likely replaced her part-time wage.

If a family with a huge mortgage can pay that $100 a week off their mortgage, they will not only get the mortgage paid off faster, the potential savings in interest are in the thousands.

When it comes to grocery shopping being aware is the thing that will save you the most money:

• Being aware that specials are not always specials
• Being aware that "bulk" buys are not always cheaper
• Being aware that supermarkets only want to part you from your money

I believe that the best way to save money on your groceries is to pay for the things that are most important to you and for everything else get the best quality at the lowest possible price.

For example you can save up to 50% on staples by being aware. Flour is flour, sugar is sugar. (Generic flour and sugar are both products of Australia, saving you money and helping to keep Australian jobs.) Don't be tricked into paying extra for a brightly coloured pack or for the cardboard box – you just throw them away.

The real saving on grocery items starts with you, not the price.

You can decide how much you are going to spend at the supermarket or on groceries each week; you don't have to fall for the advertising tricks.

Before you even begin shopping make up a menu plan. Do a quick fridge, freezer and pantry check and plan around the ingredients you already have on hand. Then make a shopping list, adding the missing ingredients and any other things you need to buy.

As you plan your menu you will save even more if you try to substitute inexpensive ingredients for the more expensive. For example if you are making salmon rissoles using pink salmon rather than red will save you at least 50% and it won't affect the end result at all. The flavour and texture will be the same. And you'll have a couple of dollars still in your grocery budget.

Most supermarkets offer a range of house or generic branded products. I love generic brands and will almost always pick up the generic over the brand name product. Try the generic options for your groceries. If you don't like them you can always go back to buying your brand names. If you don't try them you won't know if you like them and you won't know how much money you can save.

Shopping around for your groceries can also save you big bucks. You wouldn't hesitate to shop around for a new car or a new fridge or bed to be sure you get the best possible price so don't hesitate to shop around for your groceries either.

Most Australians have at least two major supermarkets within easy reach, often in the same shopping centre. It doesn't take any longer to check the prices at both of them to get the best deals on your groceries than it does to simply wander around one, paying the price that supermarket stipulates is what you should be paying.

20 November 2014

Pin Board Ideas

A great idea for a 12 year old is a personalised pin board of their own. I bought a cheap one from Lifeline ($4 instead of $40 from Officeworks) and covered it in fabric to match the sheets. Then they can pin up little pictures or things they like - it looks neater than just blu-tacking stuff onto walls. Another idea is to run some coloured jewellery wire ($2-$3 Spotlight or cheap shops) through 20 or so pegs (inside the little metal springs), and stretch it between two nails. This is a cheap alternative to a pin-board and they can hang photos or small stuffed toys from the pegs. You can buy pastel coloured pegs from Woolworths in pinks, blues and whites etc. for about $1.50. You can also do a couple of rows as well depending on size. Another idea is to search the net for their favourite character (my boy loves Cars), and print out the pictures and laminate. You can then cut around the shapes and make a wall decal of their favourite characters for FREE instead of spending $20 on laminated posters from the shops. Kids grow out of phases so quickly it's a cost effective way to keep up with their favourite cartoon characters!
Contributed by M-A

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19 November 2014

Everyday Ways to Live Like a Cheapskate - Part 4 Pets

1. Repel fleas on your pets by adding minced garlic to their food.

2. Deodorised kitty litter is great, but expensive. Add a box of bi-carb soda to the bag of litter to make your own deodorised kitty litter.

3. Litter tray liners are overpriced. Use kitchen bin liners, which cost half the price for twice the number, from a $2 or discount shop. Save time by layering 4 or 5 at a time. Then simply tie up the top one and the next one is ready to go.

4. Make your own dog food and save $250 a year. Dogs prefer it and you can adjust the recipes to suit your pet.

5. Bulk buy fish food blocks from pet supply wholesalers. You can save as much as 30% over buying the smaller, individual packets.

6. Save up to 40% by buying fish flakes by the kilogram. Store in a re-sealable, airtight container for up to a year.

7. Shop online for pet supplies. Even with postage the savings are around 25% of regular retail prices.

8. Give your caged birds a treat. Collect cuttlebone at the beach. Wash thoroughly, dry and give it to your pet birds as a great source of calcium.

Everyday Ways to Live Like a Cheapskate - Part 3 - Cleaning Products

1. A few inexpensive household products will do a lot of cleaning. Bi-carb soda, white vinegar, washing soda and household ammonia are all multi-purpose budget cleaners.

2. Don't get conned by “cleaning” vinegar. You can use ordinary white vinegar at $1.09/ 2-litre bottle and save.

3. Replace expensive glass cleaner with water and a microfibre glass cloth. Use it on your mirrors, glass surfaces, and any other areas you'd normally clean with glass cleaner. You'll find it won't streak.

4. To help dissolve scum and hair in sluggish bathroom basin and bath drains, pour a mixture of 1-cup salt, 1-cup bicarb soda and ½ cup white vinegar into the drain. Then let stand for 15 minutes and flush with 4 litres boiling water followed by flushing hot tap water down the drain for 1 minute. You can repeat this process if necessary. Hint: Salt will keep small roots from taking up residence in your pipes.

5. For cleaning bathtubs, basins and showers, use shampoo! I tried this and it works wonders. Those rings around the tub are gone instantly.

6. Use Steradent dental cleaning tablets for the toilet. Drop 3-4 in overnight, brush and flush in the morning and repeat till the toilet is clean. Drop a couple in the toilet when going away, to stop anything from growing and to prevent the brown 'watermark' that appears.

7. Besides absorbing odours in refrigerators and freezers, bicarbonate soda makes a good scouring powder because of its mild abrasiveness. It removes light soil and stains on sinks, bench tops and stovetops.

8. For extra oomph mix a box of bi-carb soda into your regular washing powder. Buy cleaning supplies in bulk from commercial cleaning companies. These products are often concentrated, making the savings even greater.

18 November 2014

Sugarless Fruit Cake

1 cup (185g)mixed fruit
¾ cup water
125g butter
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup S.R. flour, sifted
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Combine fruit, water and butter in pan, bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in mixed spice and bicarbonate soda. Cool. Stir in eggs, then flour. Spoon into greased and lined loaf tin (9cm by 22cm) Bake moderately hot oven 35 minutes.

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17 November 2014

What can I do with the ice from the defrosting freezer?

If ice has built up in your freezer and is coming off in slabs, place it in a bowl, and when finished take the water and ice outside and place on undercover patio plants. Place on the soil, away from stems, and it will melt and slowly water your plants.

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14 November 2014

How to Save on Fruit and Vegetables

I'll preface this by saying I have a big freezer and I use it all the time. I use either Tupperware containers, ziplock bags or vacuum sealed bags  for food storage. They all stack neatly in the freezer and can both be labelled easily. Ziplock bags and vacuum sealing are better - they take up less space than the Tupperware.

For fruit and veg I shop at a local orchard/market (late Sunday afternoon to get the best deals). I try to do a market shop once a fortnight, depending on what I can get and how fast the troops devour it.

With five of us to feed I buy everything I can in what most people would call bulk quantities. The saving from buying in quantity is not only in dollars but in time for me as well. One trip a fortnight to buy in bulk doesn't take any longer than it does to make a trip to buy just a few days' supply of fruit and veg. I save a lot of time buying larger quantities.
For example I buy:

Onions and potatoes by the bag. I pay no more than 60c/kg for onions for 10kg bag (the bag I bought last Sunday was just 40c/kg), the last lot of potatoes were 50c/kg for 20kg bag

Carrots are 30c/kg – I buy what the market guys call "horse carrots" – i.e. the seconds. They usually have the tip broken off or are too short/fat/long/thin. These I cut into rings, wedges and straws, blanch and freeze.

Cauliflower – have been cringing at the price lately and I'm so glad I grow our own. But it you have to buy your cauliflower remember it's a winter vegetable, so cheapest then.  At the end of last winter our local fruit market had caulis for 80c each so even though I had some in the garden I bought 20. They were cooked, covered in cheese sauce and frozen in meal size containers. My kids will only eat it with cheese sauce.

Broccoli –Most of our broccoli is home-grown, but I found a great deal at the market and again froze it. Some of it I left without sauce (I use it in a salad I make), the rest went into cheese sauce.

Cucumbers – these are so easy to grow. Two plants will keep the average family in cucumbers for the summer. Any excess you can share. If you buy them remember they don't keep long so you'll need to be able to share them, and look to pay no more than 30c each for them.

Capsicum – again if you don't grow your own, buy them by the carton from the market or your local greengrocer.

Celery – buy when it's $1 or less bunch. I do grow some celery, but it is slow and takes up garden space that can be used for other more expensive vegetables. I buy 12 bunches and slice and freeze for soups, stews and casseroles.

Spring onions – buy when 89c or less bunch. They are easy to grow but again take up space that can be used for other vegetables and I don't use a lot of them.

Eggplant – Easy to grow and perfect for Australian summers. If you can't grow them buy by the box. My kids like it crumbed with tomato sauce, I love moussaka which freezes really well too.

Cabbage –  I grow mini cabbages as one is the perfect size for a meal for my family meaning not having to store half a cabbage and use it before it goes black.  Cabbages take a lot of space in the garden so if you are short on space, they are really cheap whole from the market – last lot were $1.85 each.

Tomatoes – the real saver is to buy "sauce tomatoes" for about $4 - $5/box. Some are only good for sauce, some are still good for salads and sandwiches. Freeze whole (skin splits when they thaw, makes it easy to peel them) or make them into sauce.

Lettuce – grow some in tubs, buy in carton from market.

Fruit – apples and pears I buy straight from the orchard, ditto stone fruits, by the box. Pay about $6/box. We also have an apple tree – this year I have made up 35 packets of pie apple and put in the freezer, ready for pies, strudels and sponges.

Oranges, mandarins, grapes, rock melon – straight from grower in Mildura or by the case from the market. You can get cases of 10 rockmelon for $5 at closing time.

Watermelon – buy whole from the market.

Strawberries and mushrooms – easy to grow in styro foam boxes. They are too expensive to buy otherwise.

When it comes to feeding my family fresh food I try to buy the vegetables and fruit in season, it is always much cheaper.

If I see something I fancy and am sure I will use and it's cheap enough then I will buy it.

A reported recently questioned me (in great detail) about how I could feed my family so well and keep the bill down. Her family is the same size as mine, her kids are around the same ages as mine. Her grocery bill is $400 a week, mine is under $100.

When I explained, in great detail, how I did it her answer was short: “I couldn't be bothered with all that comparing and running around.”

My response was “A little extra effort once will pay off in huge savings all the time. The choice is yours."

13 November 2014

Cheapskates Garden Sprays

The weeds are growing faster than anything else in the garden, the bugs are out in force determined to eat every tiny seedling they come across and the plants are crying out for help. Here are three simple homemade remedies that will kill weeds, keep pests at bay and give vegetables and flowers a much needed boost.

Weed Killer

(a safe and cheap substitute for Round-up)

Here's a great weed killer you can make for less than $2 per 5 litres. Dissolve 2 cups (500g) table salt in 5 litres white vinegar (generic is ideal). Add 8 drops of liquid dishwashing detergent (helps plant material absorb the liquid). Label and keep out of reach of children. Use in an ordinary spray bottle. This non-toxic formulation acts as a temporary soil steriliser, so don t spray near roots of trees, shrubs, or plants you'd like to keep. This is especially effective on paths, driveways, footpath ... any place you don t want anything to grow.

Pest Spray

1 tsp antiseptic mouth wash (like Listerine)
1 tsp hydrogen peroxide
2 cups water
Mix in spray bottle and mist plants. Good for both indoor and outdoor plants. Mix small amounts as needed.


Here's a great way to brew up your own plant fertiliser at a cost of about 5 cents per 5 litres: Add 2 teaspoons of plain household ammonia to 5 litres of water. Allow the mixture to steep for a full 24 hours. Use on plants instead of using costly commercial fertiliser. Caution: If you use more than two teaspoons per 5 litres of water it will be too strong, and you will burn your plants. In this case more is definitely not better.

12 November 2014

Everyday Ways to Live Like a Cheapskate - Part 2 - Toiletries

1. A good substitute for shaving-cream is any hair conditioner. This also has the advantage of being see-through, handy if trimming the edges of a beard-line, or side-burns. When travelling, it makes for one less product to pack!

2. Razor blades are expensive and a great way to keep them sharper longer. In a small saucer I put some oil (olive/vegetable) and this keeps the rust at bay.

3. Liquid soap refills are around $3/250ml ($12 per litre). Refill the dispensers with budget shampoo ($2 per litre) and save $10 per litre.

4. Don't even bother using a body scrub, just buy a pair of those 'rough' shower gloves for $2, use your regular soap for your body and scrub all over. Works perfectly!

5. For the best, most economical body scrub around - just mix some grainy sea salt with a little home brand baby oil. The salt is a great natural exfoliator and the oil also moisturises your skin at the same time - two birds with one stone!

6. To make your eyebrows appear thicker, use hair spray or mousse on an eyebrow brush and brush the brows straight up.

7. Before sharpening your lip or eye pencils, put them in the fridge for a few minutes. They will sharpen to a nice point quickly and easily, without breaking.

8. For inexpensive beauty treatments check out your local TAFE beauty salons. Trained beauticians and hairdressers supervise all work and you get to look fantastic and save a bundle.

9. If you like to take your make-up off with facial wipes substitute with baby wipes at less than half the price.

11 November 2014

Eggplant Casserole

This is a truly delicious way to serve eggplant, especially if it's not a favourite vegetable. And with eggplant being cheap at the moment and a no waste veggie, it makes a great value for money addition to the shopping list. I serve this as a side dish with barbecued chops or grilled chicken. Oh, any leftovers freeze well too.

Eggplant Casserole

1 eggplant
1 tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup tomato soup
1 egg
¼ cup grated mozzarella cheese

Peel eggplant and cut into cubes. Cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Add all ingredients except cheese. Place in a greased casserole dish and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake another 5 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.

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10 November 2014

What can I do with old lip liners, eyeliners and lipstick?

Use these pencils to write inspirational messages and calendar notes on a teenager's bedroom mirror. Or leave love notes for your partner on the bathroom mirror. The colour won't matter and it just washes off.

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07 November 2014

Shopping With the Kids - It Can Be Fun!

How often have you left the children at home with Dad while you raced around doing the shopping because it was too hard to shop with kids in tow? Rather than leave them at home, why not take them with you so they learn how to shop? The younger they become used to the supermarket and sitting in the supermarket trolley the easier it is for you.

From day one (actually day 7, we were on our way home from hospital with Allan the very first time I took one of our kids shopping) I have always taken my children with me when I go shopping. As each baby came along it took a little longer and I had to be a little more organised, especially when grocery shopping, but it has always been a family affair.

The rules for a happy shopping experience with children are:

Everyone goes to the toilet before leaving home, even Mummy! You may still need regular toilet breaks so if you are shopping with children it pays to make a note of one or two toilets close to where you shop.

Be prepared. Depending on the age of your children you could require a change of clothes for the baby, nappies, wipes, bibs, plastic bags, snacks and drinks. Have at least a water bottle for thirsty little people. If your children are old enough to walk they can carry their own water bottle in a little backpack.

Take a shopping list. Even if you are only going to pick up a couple of things, a list is essential. It is too easy to become distracted, especially when accompanied by children, and invariably end up forgetting something or taking home things that were not on your list.

Get the kids involved. Give each child a task. Let them find things on your list, look for specials, decide on the fruit for the week etc. They won't have time to run around or ask for things if you keep them busy. And praise them for helping, kids like feel important and be thanked too.

No treats while shopping. If you do decide to get a treat (and it doesn't have to be edible) keep it until you are home. If you won't be able to afford a treat every shopping day then don't build the expectation . Make treats a random occurrence and as a reward for helping and good behaviour.

He who helps to buy it helps to put it away. Once you get home let the children help you put the groceries away. It's part of shopping after all.

And lastly if you have to say no to something, try to explain why. It may be too expensive, it may be poor quality, you may have a better alternative. Whatever the reason, explain it to your children so they understand you are not just saying "NO", there is a reason for it. This may cause problems the first few times, particularly if they are used to you saying yes. Ignore any tantrums or sulks. Be strong, you are the parent and it is your job to say no occasionally.

Taking the kids shopping with me could have been stressful, and in all honesty sometimes it was, but not very often. Don't get me wrong, they had their moments. And I had mine. But for the most part shopping with three under four was fun because we had rules and a routine.

After a while and with a little practice these rules will become second nature and your shopping trips will be fun too.

06 November 2014

Changing Doona Covers

This is exactly the way I change our doona covers. As I slip them off the doona before washing I make sure they come off inside out. They are then washed and hung out to dry inside out (helps with fading too). When they come off the line they are ready to be put back on the doona, or folded and put into the linen cupboard ready to use.

"1.Lay Doona insert out flat.

2. Turn fresh doona cover inside out.

3. Slide hands inside opening of doona cover right up to the very end.

4. With hands still at the end of the doona cover grab the DOONA insert (left corner in left hand right corner in right hand) and pull the doona insert into the cover letting it slide off your arms as you do so.

5. Give doona a flick to straighten it out and secure ends. I hope these instructions are easy to understand."
Contributed by Lynette Henderson

05 November 2014

Everyday Ways to Live Like a Cheapskate - Part 1 Babies

1. Join free baby clubs for free samples, discount coupons and special offers (AMCAL, Coles Baby & Toddler Club etc.). Use the points you collect for free nappies, dummies, formula etc.

2. Check your local pharmacy for baby supplies. Formula, nappy creams, baby wash and nappies are often cheaper at the Chemist than the supermarket.

3. Save on disposable nappies by buying in bulk when discount department stores have percentage off sales. If storage is a problem lay-by enough to get you through to the next sale.

4. Ordinary cornflour is a great baby powder and at under a dollar for a 500g packet is a great money saver too.

5. Treat nappy rash and sore bottoms with bi-carb soda in the bath. Add a good handful, let it dissolve and sit baby in the water until he is ready to get out.

6. Make your own nappy disposal system from a bucket with a lid and a roll of kitchen bin liners. Save around $350 a year.

7. Most baby products are overpriced. From one queen size mattress protector you can make three cot sized protectors, and all for less than the cost of one cot sized protector.

8. Buy in bulk online. You can buy nappies, formula and other baby essentials online; have it delivered to your door and save money too!

9. Get together with other mums and swap baby clothes, toys, furniture etc. Babies grow out of their stuff; they don't generally wear it out so while it may be second-hand, it's still in great condition.

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04 November 2014

Lemon Sauce Pudding

This is a simple version of that old-fashioned favourite, Lemon Delicious. It is the perfect dessert for spring and summer, light and fresh with lots of tang and just a hint of sweetness.

Lemon Sauce Pudding

2 level tbsp butter
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 level tbsp self-raising flour
1 large lemon – juiced and rind grated
1 cup milk

Separate eggs. Cream butter and sugar. Add sifted flour, grated lemon rind, juice, egg yolks and milk. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold in beaten egg whites (use a metal spoon to stop them breaking up). Pour into a greased pie dish. Stand in cold water. Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes.

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03 November 2014

What Can I do with Empty Flip or Screw Top Milk Cartons?

Usually around 1 litre in size, these make fantastic ice bricks. Just rinse them out and then refill almost to the top with water. Freeze (leave the top open to allow for expansion) until solid. You now have ice bricks ready to throw in the esky or ice box for your next picnic, barbecue or camping trip. You don't have to worry about losing them and you'll have water on hand for drinking or cleaning up if you need it.

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