28 February 2014

Shopping Aussie Made on a Budget

Most people keep shopping lists. I have a permanent list that I add to each time I shop. My list contains all the products that I buy on a reoccurring cycle. My list details Australian made items as preferred items. Australian made items are generally more expensive as they cost more to produce than imported items. I buy almost all items when they are on special only, this way I am supporting Australian companies and saving money as well. The thing to have in mind is you must buy in bulk so that you won't need to buy the products when they are at full price.  If you do need to purchase an item when it is not on special make sure on your list you have an alternative product. I plan my menus before shopping so that I can purchase only what I need (some items already purchased when on special). By not purchasing items unless they are on special you start to learn what you can actually go without.
Contributed by Petrina

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27 February 2014

Beyond Baked Potatoes - 5 Nifty Uses for Spuds

1. Soothing puffy eyes. We all know cucumber can relieve tired eyes, but did you know the humble spud can too?  Lie down for 10 minutes with a slice of potato over each eye. Then chuck the potato slices in the composter and take a look a mirror. You will be pleasantly surprised: the potato makes the puffiness go away.  Really, it works, I have no idea how or why, but it does. Next time you have a big night out grab that spud and let it work it's magic.

2. Silver cleaner. I've explained before how potato water can clean and polish stainless steel, well it also cleans silver. Next time you have a saucepan of water in which you have been boiling potatoes, don’t pour it down the sink. Use it to clean your silver jewellery and other silverware. Just drop your silver into the warm water and leave it for an hour. After the hour, take your magically cleaned and shiny silver from the water and give it a rinse then dry with a soft cloth.

3. Soothing sunburn. I don't get sunburnt very often thanks to Slip, Slop, Slap being drummed into me when I was younger and our summer is almost over but the potential for sunburn is always present for we Aussies. A potato poultice can do wonders for sunburn. Grate a handful of raw potato, wrap it in a piece of cheesecloth or a thin linen tea towel. Apply to your painful sunburn. The soothing effect also applies to regular burns, if the skin is unbroken.

4. Removing broken light bulbs safely. Have you ever been faced with the jagged little problem of removing a smashed light bulb from its socket? When it happens, you can remove the bulbs safely. Cut a suitably-sized potato in half, then jam one of the halves into the broken bulb, and twist to remove the bulb from the socket.

5. Saving over salted food from the bin. Great-grandma knew how to rescue an over salted soup or stew - she used a potato or two. We have all been there: the soup is bubbling away on the stove, then you go and ruin in with too much salt. Don't despair, help is at hand. Slice a potato and drop it into the pot while it's still cooking. The potato will absorb the salt. Take the potato out before you serve it.

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26 February 2014

Convincing a Non-believer

My husband doesn't always see the real value of watching what we (or he) spends. With a finance background, budgeting and money management are not difficult for me, however, on principle I deplore any type of poor spending through lack of proper research, or even need!

To help non-believers understand try subtle things like cutting out pictures of items you both would like to have e.g. boat, appliances/tools, plasma TV, caravan, holiday etc. and placing on the fridge or somewhere they will be noticed.

When the non-believer asks about them, just mention they are long term goals you both could aim towards with combined savings, and attaining them sooner is possible with a change of spending behaviour!

Use of a calendar to plot the progressive savings for one or more goals will help and maybe even fast-track the goal with improved habits.
Contributed by Rita

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25 February 2014

Sweet Potato Fajitas

This is a lovely variation on traditional fajitas. Being a meatless meal it is one that can really help stretch the grocery budget, especially if you grow your own veggies and make the tortillas, taco seasoning, guacamole, salsa and yoghurt. 

6 tortillas
1 sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 green capsicum, thinly sliced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 lime
1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese (I use whatever is grated - tasty, mozzarella, colby - your choice)

To garnish:
Sour cream or plain yoghurt
Diced tomato
Shredded lettuce

Optional: Cooked shredded chicken or browned mince

Bake the sweet potatoes at 180 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes until soft and they have started to caramelize. Heat the oils in a heavy based frying pan and add the onion and capsicum. Add the softened sweet potato slices and sauté until all are softened and caramelized. Add the meat if you are having it (they are good without it). Squeeze the lime on it and sprinkle with taco seasoning. Gently stir through. Sprinkle the cheese over the veggies at the end of cooking, turn off the heat and allow it to melt.

To serve put a spoonful into the middle of a soft tortilla and add whatever garnishes you like. Roll up and enjoy!

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24 February 2014

Hand-Painted Wedding Trinkets

I recently had my sister's wedding and we had champagne glasses that we picked up from the Warehouse for $10 a dozen. These were filled with chocolates and we painted the person's name and bride and groom's name with the date on each one. We used a glass paint, or porcelain paint, available from craft shops in the wedding colours, that you can bake in the oven and have dishwasher proof. At around $9.95 a bottle we had a total cost for just under 200 people of $165.00 plus chocolates. Not bad for a gift for everyone, saved us hiring glasses and it was very personal.
Contributed by Lisa-Marie

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21 February 2014

Getting a Grip on the Cost of Groceries

We've covered a lot of tips and ideas in my previous posts. Saving money at the supermarket is something many family planners try to do every week. With our money being stretched further than ever, sometimes it seems impossible. The honest truth is that it can be one of the easiest ways to get control of your budget. If you're looking for ways to save money at the supermarket, keep reading.

Plan ahead -- The very best way to save money at the grocery store is to plan ahead by creating a menu, a grocery list, and double checking your inventory to ensure that you don't waste anything. Take a look at your calendar and mark off days where you know you have no choice but to eat out, or where you have plans for a date night, or nights you know the kids won't be home. Then start planning your meals for the rest of the days.

Eat seasonally -- Certain types of food will be cheaper when it is in season and is available in abundance. Get to know your farmer's market, local farmers and co-op for alternatives to typical grocery shopping. You can save a lot of money if you are willing to pick your own.

Check the flyers -- Always look at your weekly circular, either in your paper or online at the stores you shop at. You can inform yourself about what is on sale, what coupons are available, and consider those items when you create your menu.

Frozen is fine -- When the fresh version is too expensive, consider frozen. Today most frozen foods are almost, if not more, fresh than raw produce. It depends on where you are buying. Obviously, if you're at a farm, that's the best. But, on your supermarket shelves the produce was often picked before it was ripe, and has been warehoused for sometime before you get it. Frozen produce on the other hand is usually frozen within hours and even minutes from being picked ripe.

Vegetarian options -- Eating beans and rice is a great option to eating animal products. In fact, you can make many meatless meals that are healthier, and less expensive than their meat counter parts. It simply takes a little creativity and experimentation to find out what will work for your family.

Portion control -- Most of us eat far too much these days. Sadly, we are often over fed and under nourished. Starting today, if you buy high nutrient rich food over processed foods and control portions based on the kilojoule needs of each member of the family, you'll find that you save money.

Grow your own -- If you can, growing your own produce is a great option to help you save money on your grocery bill. Even if you don't have a yard, maybe you have a friend who does who would like to share in the bounty of your work, on their land? All you can do is ask. More and more community gardens are popping up, giving you the ability to rent plots to grow your own food. Check with your local Council for any near you.

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20 February 2014

It's Time to Ban the Bag

I was chatting to the lady on the door at my local Target last week. Hannah and I were just taking a shortcut through the store so we stopped to let her check our trolley. She commented on our green bags and that led the conversation to this: do you remember a couple of years ago Target took a stand and started charging 10 cents per bag if you didn't bring your own? The bags are made of a compostable, sustainable and environmentally friendly corn starch and the profits from their sale go to the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation charity.

It was commendable. The plan was to stop around 100 million plastic bags going to landfill each year.  In Australia we actually send around 4 billion plastic shopping bags to landfill every year, and they do not break down - they stay in the ground for just about ever!). And that number just boggles my mind - I know it exists, I just can't imagine anything that huge.

Well it seems Target have given in to the whingers. They have reintroduced plastic bags for shoppers to use. They still have the 10 cent bags and do ask shoppers if they want them. I'm pretty sure sales have slumped.

This saddens me in so many ways. Yes, it can be annoying to realise you have to pay for a shopping bag or carry your items. The solution to that though is simple: carry a small, foldable shopping bag in your handbag and you won't have to.

Aldi have never offered free plastic bags and have always charged for any shopping bags in-store. No one complained. Everyone knows when you go to Aldi you take your own shopping bag/s or collect empty boxes on your way around the store.

Bunnings don't offer you a plastic bag. No one complains, they grab a box if they need it or take their own bags.

So why is that so hard with Target? And why can't Big W and Kmart and Myer and David Jones and every other store do the same thing?

Why won't our government do something that is actually useful and ban plastic shopping bags?

I wish Target had stuck to their original idea and ditched the plastic bags altogether. How lazy and selfish must we as a society be to whine like spoiled brats just to get a "free" shopping bag (of course they're not free, the cost is covered by the price of the goods you are buying)?

Perhaps if Target had toughed it out and let the whiners suck it up (and learn to bring their own bags) then other stores would have taken a stand too.

I can get my head around my stash of 11 fabric grocery bags but I can't get my head around how we can continue to add 4 billion plastic bags to landfill Every. Single. Year.

Do you take your own bags to the shops with you? Do you say "no" to plastic bags? 

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Buy Reusable Instead of Disposable

Every now and then take a look at the disposable things you're buying and ask yourself whether any of them can be replaced with a reusable item.

Some examples from our home:

Serviettes. I'd buy a packet of paper serviettes every month when I did the shopping. They weren't expensive, 99 cents. But  they were paper and invariably they'd end up in the rubbish.

Cupcake papers. The same as the serviettes. I'd be putting a couple of packs of cupcake papers in the trolley. I did this for years. Then I saw silicone cup cake "papers" at the Reject Shop for $2 for six. Over a few weeks I stocked up. Now I have four dozen reusable cup cake papers that should last me until I can no longer bake. I won't be buying papers again.

Paper towel. I stopped using it years ago when our grocery budget was so tight even 79 cents for a roll of paper towel was too much. Instead I have rags for spills, cheesecloths for draining and knitted dishcloths for wiping benchtops, dishes and so on.

Paper plates and plastic cutlery. When the children were younger and we had three birthday parties a year I decided that not only were disposable party supplies expensive, we were sending far too much plastic to landfill. Instead I bought cheap picnic sets (each one had a plate, bowl, tumbler and cutlery for four people) in different colours and put them in the party box. We're still using them. They were around $4 each, very inexpensive compared to disposable and they've lasted for 19 years!

Coffee filters. We still have a drip coffee machine that gets brought out when we have a lot of coffee to make. I gave up on the paper filters years ago. A reusable filter costs about $3 and lasts for years. It's perfect, doesn't fall apart if it's not emptied straight away, ideal if you save the coffee ground for the worms or compost.

There are so many things we automatically buy, use and throw away that can be replaced with reusable alternatives. Have a think about what disposables you use in your home and then how much money and landfill space you could be saving by switching to reusable.

19 February 2014

When One Partner Isn't a Cheapskate

In a perfect world all parties in any relationship would be on the same page when it comes to living the Cheapskates way. In the real world however that just isn't the case.

Living with a spendaholic can be difficult. It can be even more difficult to get them to change their habits, often developed over a lifetime.

A small dose of reality will often be enough to change their attitude towards money.

Often people don’t like to take advice from their spouses, and it may be difficult to “make” him or her change.  However, you can do some things that might help him/her see the reality of the situation.

Sometimes, meeting with a professional can really help put financial realities into focus.  Preparing for this kind of consultation will force at least some tallying of financial resources. Also, it is helpful to decide on goals for the future (retirement, education funds for the kids, paying down debts).  A good financial advisor can give realistic tips on how to achieve these goals.

Eliminate credit cards. Credit cards make it way too easy to overspend.  Work on paying down the balances, and then cancel them.

If frivolous spending is a problem, agree on a fixed amount of “mad money” for any extras each month.  Each person can spend it how he or she wishes, but can’t go over that amount.  Pretty soon, it will be clear how quickly taxis and lunches out can make that money disappear.

Don't give up. Continue to lead by example. It can’t hurt to model the behavior you would like to see emulated.  Continue to demonstrate thoughtful spending.  Suggest eating at home sometimes to save some extra cash, for instance.

And lastly don’t forget the value of an honest, heart-to-heart conversation.  Try to get at the root of spending behaviors, and work together to find a solution.  Spending and budgeting are family issues.

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18 February 2014

Hawaiian Haystacks

The recipe for Haystacks is one I'm often asked for (it's in the Recipe File, on the Vegetarian page). They are not only cheap, quick and easy but they can be really nutritious too.

This is a variation on the original haystacks recipe and it's delicious, especially in summer. It's a little lighter and using seasonal vegetables and fruits as toppings makes it a great summer meal.

1-1/2 cups rice
2 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into small chunks, or leftover cooked cubed/shredded chicken from a roast chicken
3 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 cup plain flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk

cheese, shredded coconut, pineapple, celery, mandarin segments, olives, spring onions, grated carrots, diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers

Cook rice so it’s ready when you need it.  In a large frying pan melt butter and cook onions and chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes.  If you’re using leftover chicken that’s already cooked don’t add it now, we’ll do this later. Sprinkle flour over onion/chicken mixture. Stir and cook for one minute. Cooking the flour stops the sauce from tasting like raw flour, don't be tempted to skip this step. Slowly whisk in milk and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, add salt and pepper. If you’re using leftover chicken add it now. Simmer until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Ladle chicken over rice. Top with desired toppings.

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14 February 2014

How to Afford Your Favourite Gourmet Coffee

Are you addicted to gourmet coffee from your friendly neighbourhood coffee shop? These expenses can add up quickly. In fact, some folks spend well over $300 per month for their daily dose of caffeine, gourmet style (ouch!).

What if you could have your cake and eat it too? In other words, what if you could enjoy your daily gourmet coffee and lattes, but save money at the same time!

These ideas will have you licking your lips while you count your savings, including my new favourite coffee flavour:


1. Buy an on-the-stove espresso maker. Cost: ~$20

*Heat up milk on the stove or in the microwave; pour in cup.

*Make espresso in the espresso maker.

*Add 30ml of espresso to 180ml milk.

Or buy a higher-end espresso maker. Cost: ~$200+ depending on brand.

If you spend over a hundred dollars each month (that's just one coffee a day) at the gourmet coffee shop, you'll soon make up for the cost of the espresso maker in your daily savings.

*Brew espresso.

*While it's brewing, pour cold milk into mug.

*Steam the milk right in the cup with the milk steamer arm on the espresso machine.

*Add 30ml of espresso to 180ml milk.


Add your choice of flavourings to your milk when you add the espresso. If you have the more costly espresso maker, avoid adding flavourings to milk before you steam it, or it’ll clog the steamer arm on the espresso maker.

*Mocha latte: Add in chocolate syrup and sugar to taste.

*Vanilla latte: Add a couple drops of vanilla extract and sugar to taste.

*Caramel latte: Add caramel ice cream topping and sugar to taste.

*Peppermint latte: Melt a peppermint candy in a small amount of water and add to latte (this is a great way to use up those leftover Christmas candy canes, just crush them up and add to your coffee). Or use 1-2 drops of peppermint extract.

*You can even buy your favourite flavourings at the supermarket or gourmet coffee stores, which would still be cheaper than buying the flavoured coffee and lattes there every day.

Top it off with whipped cream (if you dare) and enjoy!

Iced Coffees

*Iced coffee. Pour coffee and ice into beverage shaker. Shake and pour into glass.

*Blended ice coffee. Pour coffee and ice into blender and blend.

Gourmet Coffee

Because of the immense popularity of gourmet coffees, supermarkets now carry a good selection of gourmet coffees and coffee beans.

If you like to grind your own beans for the freshest flavour, buy a coffee bean grinder (around $20 and it can be used to grind nuts and seeds too) or use the one at the supermarket.

These gourmet coffees are every bit as tasty as the ones at your local gourmet coffee shop, but they cost less because you make the coffee yourself.

Whether you like lattes, cappuccinos or a short or long black, skip the coffee shop and experiment with different flavours and styles of coffee at home and have fun. You'll be saving yourself a trip to the local coffee shop, saving you money, time and energy (and a whole lot of kilojoules!).

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13 February 2014

Storing Onions for the Long Term

I don't grow all our onions, there simply isn't enough garden space. I do however buy onions in 10 kilo bags when they are cheap, my top price is 40 cents a kilo, although I can usually get them for 35 cents a kilo.

This means that there are a lot of onions to be stored. Some are grated, diced or sliced and then frozen or dehydrated. But I like to keep some of them to use fresh. Which creates a bit of a dilemma because onions don't keep terribly well just in the pantry.

They tend to sprout or go soft, even mouldy. Yuk!

You could spend $30+ on a plastic container to store your onions, or $2 for 100 paper bags that can be re-used over and over, or re-purpose some paper bags you already have for nothing.

For long term pantry storage, that doesn't require buying a special container or bag, I use this simple method. It's so simple you'll wonder that it really works. It does. And it keeps onions (and garlic and shallots) fresh for months, right in my kitchen pantry.

You will need:
Brown paper lunch bags - the number depends on the number of onions you are going to store
Pegs or paper clips to keep the bags closed
A hole punch

Step 1. Punch the bags. You can do this any way you wish, even randomly all about the upper half of the bags. An easy was is to fold the bag a few times and then punch in a row, spacing the punches 2cm or so apart. It doesn't have to be perfect or in a particular pattern, just punch holes for ventilation. The result is multiple rows of holes in the upper half of the bag.

Step 2. Fill the bag up to half full, just below or at the first row of holes.  Fold the top over 2cm, label it and use the pegs or paper clips to hold the top down.

I store my bags, full of onions, in a box on the pantry floor.  It's important not to crowd them. Air needs to circulate around the bags, that's the whole point of punching the holes. I use a wooden box;  it helps to keep the bags upright and is roomy enough for air circulation between the bags. They could be stored in a cupboard in a wire basket or in a cardboard box on a pantry shelf.

This method of storing your onions, garlic and shallots should extend the shelf life of your produce without any chemical intervention (or expensive plastic boxes). Just remember it will all depend on their condition when you put them in the bag, temperature, humidity and light. Try to store fresh, blemish free onions for the best results.

Onions like a cool (not cold - keep them out of the fridge), dark, dry storage area. I keep them in my pantry but any space you have that meets the criteria will do.

If you think this method won't work for you, remember: no plastic bags. Don't ever store onions in plastic bags. That will accelerate sprouting and spoiling because of the lack of air circulation.

And for some reason they really don't like potatoes. Don't store onions and potatoes together. They don't get on and give off gases that just make them both go off faster.

If you are careful when you take the onions out of the bags they can be reused over and over. Make sure they are clean and dry, shake out any litter and they're good to go again.

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12 February 2014

What Does it Mean to be "Frugal"?

Some people shudder at the word “frugal.” Others faint. Many begin to hyperventilate. Few run to the door screaming. Why do people panic and go mad at such a word? What is it that makes people fidget at its utterance?

Most of the population believes that to be frugal one must give up the fun things in life and live a dreary, depressing existence, which causes these feelings of fright and anxiety. This just isn’t so.

Becoming “frugal,” as one might say, is just learning how to manage your money in a smarter, more productive way so you are able to live life debt free, cashed up and  laughing.

It also means being creative when it comes to shopping, managing your money and living life in general. Living frugally is finding opportunities to save money and seizing them. It’s an adventure that’s never ending.

Living a frugal life is not something to be fearful of. It may require some dedication that hasn’t been needed before and it might mean giving up a few luxuries, but if you work at it in the correct way, being frugal is not something to fear. All anyone has to do is take some time to evaluate how he or she spends their money and decide what actions need to be taken to save money, hence, living frugally.

There are two main points to be made when learning about being frugal and having a frugal life. One, you have to become smarter with your money management and secondly, you have to work at becoming smarter at your spending.

Master those two points and you've mastered living the Cheapskates way.

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11 February 2014

The Paperless Kitchen - Making the Switch to Cloth Serviettes

One of the first things to go when we started living this Cheapskates lifestyle was paper products - paper towel, tissues and serviettes.

I hadn't realised just how expensive those paper products really were. With three littlies in the house, a messy cook (that would be me!) and a husband who worked hard and enjoyed messy hobbies I thought paper towel, serviettes and tissues was the only way to cope with the messes.

When our grocery budget went down to $200 a month they had to go. Even though I was shopping at Jewel (remember Jewel, the no frills grocer?) and had switched to no name paper products they were still too expensive.

Once the paper towels went I realised we were still using paper serviettes. While they were a little cheaper I was going through them faster because they made good paper towel substitutes.
An aunty of mine once told me she couldn't possibly eat a meal with out a serviette, sometimes two or three, depending on how “messy” the meal was. Unfortunately I am a bit the same, I like to have a serviette handy just in case and I used to go through a couple of packets of paper napkins a month.

While they weren't particularly expensive, 99 cents for 200, they did help to fill the rubbish bin and there were times they actually found their way into the washing machine and made my life miserable.

When we went paperless I decided enough was enough and fabric serviettes were the way to go. I did some research and found that they didn't have to be washed after each meal, but instead could be personalised to be used a number of times (unless they were particularly grotty). I was sold.

I worked out that I would need at least two dozen to cover accidents, washing, visitors etc. To buy twenty-four fabric serviettes was going to cost a bit so I started looking around the house for alternatives.

During my younger, richer, single days one of my passions was old linen and over the years I managed to gather quite a collection of tablecloths, serviettes, doyleys, pillowcases, antimacassars and tea towels. The tea towels, tablecloths and pillowcases were perfect to rejuvenate and turn into serviettes.

They were really easy to make, just fabric cut into squares and hemmed. Simple! In one afternoon I was able to make twenty-four serviettes and we have been using them ever since.

I calculate that using fabric serviettes for the last 19 years has saved us $451.04! That's almost six week's grocery budget or to put it another way three days Wayne doesn't have to work!

If you are not a confident sewer, try these instructions.

You will need:
*Fabric – pillowslips, sheets, shirt backs, tea towels, even your favourite dress can be cut up and recycled
*Tape measure
*Sewing machine or needle
*Iron and ironing board

1. Measure your fabric into 40cm squares and cut them out.
2. Once you have your squares cut out, stitch around the fabric 6mm from the edge.
3. Fold the fabric over along the stitching line and press down.
4. Carefully fold over again, making a double fold.
5. Press and pin in place.
6. Stitch, either by hand or machine, all the way around the edge to hem the fabric.

And that's it. You have just made your serviettes.

The switch to fabric serviettes took a bit of work and a little getting used to but it has been worth it, on so many levels. Cloth napkins add a little formality to meals. We all seem to sit a little straighter, use our manners more and spend more time at the table enjoying each other's company. Will we ever go back to paper serviettes? No. I like the fabric napkins. I like that I can swap them around to suit the table setting. They are easy to launder, they just go in the wash with the whites and line dry. I fold them straight off the line and put them into the drawer immediately. They're not really any extra work.

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Oven Baked Zucchini Fries

Every summer veggie gardens all over have a glut of zucchini. It is the almost indestructible vegetable. They can be frozen, dehydrated, pickled. They can be steamed, roasted or eat raw. Or they can be crumbed and baked into these delicious chips.

2 large or 6 small zucchini
2 eggs
1-½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (try panko breadcrumbs for a crunchier texture)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mustard power
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil and set aside. Cut your zucchini into wedges. Whisk the eggs in a dish and set aside. In another dish, combine the bread crumbs, paprika, mustard powder and salt and pepper. Start by dipping the wedges, one by one, into the egg mixture and then the bread crumb mixture. Place each wedge on the greased baking sheet. Continue until all the wedges are done. You can bake the wedges as is for about 30-40 minutes (until soft inside and golden brown on the outside), but if you want a more golden texture, drizzle or spray some olive oil on top of the wedges. Turn half way through baking.

Serve with your favourite dipping sauce (I love them with sweet chilli sauce).

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10 February 2014

Another MOO Reed Diffuser

I first wrote about MOO reed diffusers here. It's a simple process, but one that requires a couple of specific ingredients.

A few weeks ago, just after Christmas, I came across the instructions for another version and decided to experiment. Many skewers and bottles of oil mixture later this is the version I prefer.

It uses ordinary kitchen ingredients. It's cheap. It's quick to make (takes about 2 minutes all up!). And it works really well.

You will need:  
A glass bottle with a narrow neck
4-5 reed diffuser sticks OR bamboo skewers  
1/4 cup safflower oil  
20-25 drops of essential oil

Step 1. Mix the essential oils and safflower oil together. It's easiest to do this in the bottle.

Step 2. Place the skewers in the container. It will take a while for the oil to travel up the sticks, so speed up the process by flipping the sticks after several hours.

That's it. Easy. Refresh the scent by flipping the skewers every few days. Once the skewers (or reeds) become saturated you'll need to replace them with fresh. And the oil will eventually evaporate. I suggest topping it up when it gets down by a third for a continuous fragrance.

Search op shops or $2 shops for suitable bottles. Better still ask friends, family and colleagues if they have any small sauce bottles they could pass on to you. I used a cute little bottle that had coloured salts in it (that had faded beyond recognition) for one diffuser. Another one was a repurposed sesame oil bottle.

I used bamboo skewers because I had them in the kitchen drawer. You can buy reed diffuser sticks from craft shops if you prefer the look of them.

For the oil any light oil will work. You could use sweet almond for instance but it will be more expensive. I had safflower in the pantry and it works perfectly.

When it comes to essential oils, oils aint oils, to coin a phrase.  Pure oils are a little expensive but they are pure, they last much, much longer and a little goes a long, long way.  If you want reed diffusers that really scent your rooms, buy the best possible essential oils you can afford.

Some of my favourite scents are:
Lavender, lemon and rosemary
Peppermint and orange
Eucalyptus and lavender - sounds odd but it's delightfully refreshing!

You can create your own fragrances by combining your favourite essential oils. Experiment to find the scent that suits your home best.

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07 February 2014

An Easy Way to Save $225 a Year

Would you like to save $225 a year without feeling it? And without having ot think about it? Then drink water! No one needs to drink either pasteurized juice, cordial, lemonade and other soft drinks or any type of sweet beverage, and that includes so called diet choices. The best beverage for everyone is water. You can use your regular tap water. Australia has one of the purest tap water systems in the world. Nothing is wrong with it. You don't need to spend money on bottled water, that can cost up to 1,000 times the price of a glass of tap water! If you are on tank water you might like to purchase a filter that removes anything that might be in the water for taste until you and your family get used to drinking water.

Drink water and you'll save money and your family's health.

Oh, and the $225 a year saving - that's the cost of just two bottles of brand name soft drink a week!

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06 February 2014

Why I Love My Microfibre Cleaning Cloths

I love, love, love my microfibre cleaning cloths. They are inexpensive, easy to use, do a great job and have eliminated almost all cleaning products from my home.

Before Cheapskates I had a cupboard full of cleaning products, that all cost a small fortune. I had bath cleaner, shower cleaner, glass cleaner, mirror cleaner, hard floor cleaner, bleaches, sink cleaner, oven cleaner, cleaner for the stove, a spray for the benches and another for the walls and yet another for the fridge and freezer. I had dishwasher cleaner and drain cleaner, and carpet cleaner and furniture cleaner.  My laundry cupboard was a little cleaning product supermarket.

To use all those products I had cloths. Lots and lots and lots of cloths. They were all for different things. Dishes, benches, floors, baths, basins, shower, windows, spills, walls and woodwork, polishing, dusting. I had a different cloth for every possible cleaning situation.

When I started living the Cheapskates way I used them all up, slowly, and replaced them with frugal, environmentally friendly MOO cleaning products. I wised up and bought two packs of 10 face washers for $3 each from Crazy Clints. The red ones were for cleaning, the dark blue ones were for dusting and polishing. Those face washers were fantastic. When they were dirty they went in the wash. They dried in no time and were easy to keep track of. Two types of cleaning chore, two colours. It worked really well and saved us a lot of money.

And then about 10 years ago I found microfibre cloths. I'd heard of Enjo, and my mother loves the products, but they were way out of my price range. One day I was browsing the cleaning aisle, ticking off the products I no longer bought, and I found a microfibre shower cloth by Mr Clean. It was my price - $2 - so home it came.

The shower was the bane of my cleaning life. It was old, the tiles were damaged from years of scrubbing with harsh chemical cleaners, the glass was dull and the base was yellowing. It seemed like nothing I did cleaned the soap scum from it easily. I had nothing to lose except $2.

Oh my giddy aunt! That cloth was the start of my love affair with microfibre cloths. All I did was wet the cloth and the shower walls and base and rub. When the cloth slipped easily over a section it was clean. The shower had never, ever been so clean and it certainly had never been so easy.

From there I bought a glass cloth. It was amazing. Mirrors shone with just a wipe. My dining table (which is all glass) sparkled and I could dust and clean it in about five minutes. Even the car windows gleamed.

One day I found a clearance rack full of microfibre cloths and mitts for $2 each, marked down from $8 and $12 each. I bought the lot! I still have a few in their packets.

They are all different brands. Mr Clean, Sabco and a couple of generic brands from the $2 shop. They all work brilliantly.

I learned early on that the secret to using microfibre cloths is to use cold water. Cold water helps the microfibres collect dust, grease, grime and most importantly soap scum. And they should always be washed in cold water without detergent or fabric softener. That's fine I wash in cold water anyway and don’t use a fabric softener so once a week I toss a pile into the washing machine and put them through the econo cycle and onto the line to dry.

What do I use microfibre cloths for? Just about all my cleaning jobs:

  • Dusting
  • Polishing
  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • Glass doors
  • Cleaning glass vases
  • Baths
  • Basins
  • Showers 
  • Toilets
  • Floors
  • Walls and woodwork
  • Washing the cars
  • Cleaning outdoor furniture
  • Cleaning the barbecue and smoker
  • The sink
  • Cupboards and benchtops
  • Cleaning the oven and stove
  • Wiping down the fridge and freezer
  • Mopping up spills

Microfibre cloths make cleaning easy and if you really want it to be, chemical free. All you need is cold water and a suitable microfibre cloth.

Are they frugal? Yes, I believe they are. I've never paid more than $2 for a single cloth, and some of them are  in packs of two!

Have I tried the more expensive Enjo or Norwex cloths? No. They are way out of my price range. I have no doubt they do a fantastic job, they'd have to, especially to keep my Mum happy (and she is). Would I pay the price for them? Honestly, no. Not after using my cheapies and being so happy with them.

Do the cheaper versions work? They sure do. I've been using some of them for over 5 years and they are still as powerful today as they were when they were new. The oldest one is  10 years old - yes I still have my original shower cloth. And I still use it too. It's getting a little ragged around the edges and perhaps next time I have the overlocker out I'll run it around to tidy it up, but a few thready edges have not impeded it's cleaning power at all.

I love my microfibre cleaning cloths and I just can't imagine going back to any other cloth for cleaning.

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05 February 2014

Off the Grid Appliances

That caught your attention didn't it? What is an "off the grid" appliance? It's simple really. Any appliance that doesn't require electricity to run it.

For about 10 years now we've been making the shift to non-electric appliances around the house. It started with simple things like begging my mother for her egg beater to use instead of my Kitchenaid mixer (which I love and would miss dearly). She gave it up grudgingly and only because she found it difficult to use because of her arthritis. This egg beater is older than me, it was an engagement present for my mother and father back in 1959 and it still whips eggs and batters as good as it did back then.

I replaced my V-slicer when I wore it out so I don't need to use the food processors all the time. I've replaced my grater with a whizz bang new one that has a box to grate into and a lid to keep whatever I grate fresh. It's great for small amounts of cheese, one or two onions or carrots and the soap for Cheapskates Washing Powder. And it uses Cath Power, not plug-in power.

Even my Fowlers Vacola outfit is a stovetop rather than electric system.

We had an electric can opener, but when the boys gave me a fantastic can opener for Christmas a couple of years ago I was ecstatic. It's simple to use, leaves a smooth edge and doesn't require any power to operate it. Actually it's so easy to use Mum can manage it even with her arthritis. They bought it at General Trader if anyone is interested, and it wasn't cheap - it was $29.95 (which is why they shared it).  I think t was worth every cent and just as good as the $50 Tupperware can opener my mother-in-law wanted me to buy. The electric can opener was gifted to a friend who happened to mention she was looking for one.

Another score off Mum, to use one of the kids' favourite phrases, is the carpet sweeper. Good old Sabco, it's bright blue box hides brushes that do an amazing job of picking up the surface fluff and dust from the carpets. Hannah tells me it's vintage and I should sell it. I tell her it does what I want it to do and it didn't cost me anything, it doesn't cost anything to run, has simple moving parts that even I can repair if necessary and it's staying.

Last year I showed Hannah how to set her hair using rollers. Apparently they are coming back into fashion, although the newer versions are rather expensive. I even dragged out my (very) old hot rollers. She was dumbfounded! They don't require any power, but instead are heated by sitting them in hot water for 10 minutes. OK, you might need power to heat the water, but a fire does the job too.  And I taught her how to use rags to create soft curls instead of turning on the curling wand.

We don't have air-conditioning in our home. Last week I would have really, really liked it and really, really, really used it. But we manage to keep the house cool (-ish) without using power. Awnings are down early in the morning, blinds and drapes are drawn and windows shut to keep the heat out. Sausages not only keep cold winds from blowing under doors, they keep hot winds out too.

On really hot days we make sure the television is off. Boy do these new TVs give off some heat! A big screen may be easier to watch but why hasn't someone solved the heat issue yet?

For my birthday last month the kids gave me a push mower and I love it. I don't need to bust a kerfoofal valve to start it, I can use it whenever I feel like it, it's great exercise, it doesn't wake the neighbourhood or suffocate me in fumes and it doesn't need to be filled up with fuel. I think this is one of the best presents I've ever had. I love cutting the grass, not that we have much, and now I can do it free of cost and without any impact on the environment.

We even have a stovetop coffee percolator. I hunted op shops to find it. It was originally meant to go camping with us, but it makes such a nice cup of coffee I keep it in the kitchen. When someone pops in for a coffee I love to get it out and make them a real cup of coffee.

Dependency on electricity has spoilt us. We have everything at the flick of a switch. And each flick costs money. Power bills are going up and up, they're not ever going to come down. As the resources to produce electricity become scarcer prices will rise and I would think access would be restricted.

Instead of complaining about the cost of electricity, we should be doing something about how much we use.

Choosing a few non-electric appliances to replace your powered ones will stand you in good stead. At the very least you'll save a little money on the power bill, get a little more exercise and add a little more "green" to your life.

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