30 January 2015

Are You a Pack Rat?

Are you sitting there, surrounded by clutter, running out of space, unable to put your hands on what you need when you need It? Where does all this clutter come from? Does it just appear overnight, is someone deliberately trying to bury us under mountains of clutter? Let's pinpoint some sources so we can be on guard (and one step ahead of the clutter!)

Where Does It Come From?

1. Hobbies - equipment and papers, partially completed projects.
2. Clubs and organizations - Scouts, Brownies, P&C, CWA, CFA, SES and so on.
3. Holidays - souvenirs, brochures, itinerary, matchbooks.
4. Gifts - all those lovely little souvenirs family and friends give you as mementoes of their holidays, the wonderful artwork that comes home from school or kinder everyday etc.
5. Inheritance - no need to say more.
6. Breakage and Loss - the cup with the broken handle, the button your found under the chair etc.
7. Worn out but still good - old faded curtains (maybe they can be dyed), old clothes (they may be good for gardening)
8. Out of Style - old fashioned, but too good to give away or throw out
9. General paper - junk mail, school newsletters, church bulletins etc.
10 Kids - and I don't mean the children themselves, just the stuff they attract (mini meal toys etc.)
11 Religion - it's hard to throw away religious stuff, isn't it?
12 Home decorating - old pictures, old wall papers, old ornaments, soft furnishings, old paint etc.

What do I do with it?

Firstly, don't confuse collecting with cluttering or collections with clutter. There is a distinct difference. Collectors are usually much more restrained, know exactly what they are collecting and collect  only it, and are much more organized than the average packrat. Collectors are selective, packrat keep anything and everything.

To deal with clutter successfully, you will need to decide whether you are a collector or a packrat. If you are a collector, find ways to display or store your collection safely, weed out the junk and get rid of it.

If you are a packrat it's not so easy. You will probably have years and years of ingrained habits to overcome. Start by sorting (I know that its hard) into groups - use, save, throw out, sell, give away. Neatly put away the 'use' items, store the 'save' items, immediately get rid of the 'throw out' items - don't even think that they may come in handy, and take the 'give aways' to the Salvos straight away.

Now, I don't expect that this will happen immediately, and it may take more than one session. Be diligent, follow the steps, your clutter will disappear and in its place, you'll find a collection.

28 January 2015

Menu Planning Breaks the Grocery Spending Habit and Saves $60 a Week

Cheapskater Julie is saving $40 - $60 a week by doing something we all know saves money, time and energy: meal planning.

"After reading the hints and tips for menu planning and shopping our family made a monthly menu plan with meals we all like and eat. I then made four weekly grocery lists to go with the planner. This took less than an hour. The lists contain all that is needed to make each meal for that week. I costed out our shopping using the Aldi site so I know what the weeks shop will cost approximately. Now each week all I need is to get my list and shop. Wanting to save money I decided to shop at home the night before I went to the supermarket. Most weeks we can cross off a 1/3 of our list by shopping in our pantry, saving anywhere from $40 - $60 a week. Our grocery bill is now down to about $90 a week for 5 people including extras for lunch and brekkie. We started at $150 and as I had a $150 that was always what I spent out of habit."

Julie used the Aldi Smarter Shopping site to cost out her shopping lists. Unfortunately Aldi recently took the site down which is a shame as it was a very handy tool.

You don't need a website to make your shopping list and price it though. Use your price book or check prices with either the Coles or Woolworths online shopping sites. You'll get an approximation of how much your grocery shopping is going to cost regardless of where you shop.

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27 January 2015

Luscious School Lunch Ideas

School goes back this week and that means lunchboxes, and lots of good food to go in them. I spent the greater part of 18 years packing school lunches and over the years came up with some simple foods that would ease the boredom of sandwiches and fruit for the kids.  They are kind to whoever has to pack them too, all quick and easy and deliciously different ideas.

Shaker Salad

Place lettuce, grated carrot, cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices in a large ziplock bag.
Place some corn chips and grated cheese and a serve of salad dressing in separate ziplock bags. Make sure the bag with the dressing in it is sealed properly.

At lunchtime, pour the dressing over the salad. Re-seal the bag and shake to mix through. Top with the corn chips and cheese and enjoy.

Star Sandwiches

Spread bread with mayonnaise and to with slice of chicken and a slice of cheese. Top with second slice of bread. Using a star shaped biscuit cutter, press shapes from centre of sandwich.


Kids and adults a like love dippers. You can put together your own version very easily with a little imagination.

Cottage cheese
Peanut Butter
Cream Cheese

Place your desired dip in either a small, resealable container or a twist of greaseproof paper.

Carrot sticks
Celery sticks
Mini grissini
MOO Pita chips
Corn chips
Mini crackers

Pinwheel Sandwiches

These dainty and special little sandwiches will appeal to even the most jaded of appetites. I guarantee you won't be getting any lunchtime leftovers brought home with these.

Before making the sandwiches flatten the bread with a rolling pin or drinking glass. This makes the bread easier to roll.

Spread with butter, cream cheese or mayonnaise. Top with sliced deli meat. Roll bread tightly into pinwheel. Slice into 4 pieces. Stack on top of each other and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

26 January 2015

Happy Australia Day

This is one of my favourite views of Australia. I am, and always will be, happier in the bush than the city. Spending time in the bush is my favourite pastime and Wayne and I spend as much time as we can camping, walking and driving through this amazing land we have the privilege to live in.

We live in a country blessed with unique natural beauty, and it shouldn't be taken for granted. 

We live in a country blessed with a unique way of life, where we are free to live as we choose, and it shouldn't be taken for granted.

We live in a country with clean air, clean water, clean soil and we shouldn't take it for granted.

We live in a country where we are free to move from town to town, city to city,state to state as we choose, and we shouldn't take it for granted.

We live in a country where we can go to bed each night feeling safe from the horrors of war and conflict and we shouldn't take it for granted.

We live in a country with an ancient history of 40,000 years and a modern history of just 245 years. 

We can't change history, nor should we try. It is what it is.

We must learn from the triumphs and the tragedies of our history and use those lessons to make the future of Australia better for the next generation, so they can then learn from them as well and make Australia better for the generation after, continuing the learning for all generations to come.

Happy Australia Day everyone.

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A Stress Free Start to the New School Year

It's back to school time already! The holidays have just flown by.

We're over Christmas, had our fun in the sun (with appropriate protection, of course) and shopped for new shoes, hats, uniforms and books. We've covered text books, labelled new clothes and lunchboxes, marked pencils and textas and we're all ready to start the new school year.

And now it is time to get the kids back to school. By now they are probably busting to catch up with their friends to swap Christmas holiday stories.

To help the school year start smoothly and stress free, I have some simple steps to ease back into school routines. They are the routines I used when my own children were at school and they worked beautifully (most of the time - we are a normal family after all).
Here they are:

• Create a 'launchpad' where schoolbags, hats, sports equipment etc. is kept. Then it's just a matter of pick it up and go in the mornings.
• Pack lunches and drinks the night before and refrigerate/freeze!
• Make sure backpacks are packed and ready to go the night before. Lay out clothes the night before.
• Remember kids need to make as many decisions as possible. Avoid power struggles by letting them make small decisions.
• Create a special hamper in the laundry for uniforms and other rush items.
• Fold T-shirts so that the design is recognizable without unfolding.

Each evening before the kids go to bed, have a 10 minute family tidy-up time to get everything back in place.

25 January 2015

Getting Ready for Grocery Shopping

I'm due to do my monthly grocery shopping in a fortnight. If you remember, I split the January monthly shop between October, November and December shops last year so I wouldn't have to bother with the supermarket or butcher this month.

This week I've started to put my February list together, using old shopping lists. Because Aldi have taken down their online shopping list (why?) I've had to go back to pen and paper, the way I used to write it up before I became the computer savvy super shopper that I am (and that is totally tongue in cheek - there is nothing computer savvy about me!).

What I've discovered though is that we don't need a lot thanks to our grocery stockpile. There is still plenty of meat, chicken and fish in the freezer. In fact it is still almost full and we have been steadily eating from it since December when I did my last big meat shop. The pantry is still looking full. The fridge is full. The garden is producing more than enough salad veggies and herbs to keep us going and we have oranges and rhubarb for fruit. Ok, that's not a huge variety for fruit but there are tins of fruit salad, peaches, apricots and plums in the pantry and stewed apples, rhubarb and plums in the freezer.

My almost full freezer. I keep frozen veg in a green bag, easy to identify and to lift in and out of the freezer. I use coloured bags for freezer storage to make storing, sorting and finding what I want easy.
There is MOO cordial in the freezer if we want something different to drink and thanks to an NQR special a while ago there are tea bags enough to last another few months. I may need to get coffee but if Wayne and I cut back to just one cup each in the mornings we'll have enough to last until the end of February.

We will need cheese, butter and eggs and of course fresh milk each week but that's about it. The meal plan for February is already done and I don't need to buy anything special for it.

Use the cardboard cartons from the supermarket shelves to act as dividers and shelving in your pantry instead of buying expensive organizers. When they start to get ratty, just pick up a new one from the supermarket.
And all that has led to me making a wildly radical (again, tongue in cheek) decision. Because February is No Spending month I'm going to try and get to the first Friday in March, which will be the 6th, with what food we have in the house  and garden. I am pretty sure we can make it easily and I am pretty sure I am the only one who will notice I haven't done any grocery shopping.

My revised grocery budget for February is $60, leaving $260 to put into the slush fund - a nice amount to add to the money for the quarterly meat shop (I have talked about why in the Member's forum).

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23 January 2015

34 Ways to Save on the things you use Every Day

1. Buy in bulk.

2. Compare weekly ads for best prices.

3. Go generic, avoid brand names.

4. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables at your local farmers' market.

5. Scout for coupons and discount offers.

6. Shop according to what's on sale.

7. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season.

8. Buy re-usable cloth serviettes instead of paper.

9. Use rags or tea towels instead of paper towel. 

10. Buy everything for the week in one trip.

11. Plan ahead for purchases you know are coming up.

12. Plan your weekly menu in accordance with sales and the food you already have in the house.

13. Use frequent shopping cards.

14. Shop at garage sales and secondhand stores (op shops).

15. Read the fine print on credit card offers.

16. Negotiate lower interest rates on your credit cards.

17. Keep a budget for your household.

18. Ask yourself if you really need an item you wish to purchase.

19. Make more meals from scratch.

20. MOO your household cleaning products.

21. Take advantage of samples.

22. Cut down on utility bills - use less water, turn off lights, hang clothes to dry, and more.

23. Check the clearance section first.

24. Reuse items and buy reusable batteries.

25. Avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

26. Search for less expensive insurance from top-rated companies.

27. Take advantage of Internet sales and discounts.

28. If possible, avoid taking children with you to the supermarket.

29. Implement the $100/24 Hour to cut down on impulse shopping.

30. Make your own organic weed killers.

31. Brew your own coffee and lattes.

32. Take your lunch.

33. Avoid vending machines - bring your own drinks and snacks from home.

34. Buy off-season - shop at the end of summer for summer items, the end of winter for winter items or after Christmas for holiday items and use them during the next year.

22 January 2015

MOO Greasy Stain Lifter

I don't know how it happens but I always seem to have a grease stain or two on something that goes through the wash, and we all know that usually sets the stain.

I try to get them before anything gets tossed into the machine but sometimes I'm just not quick (or observant) enough.

The latest disaster was a brand new top of mine, worn once and stained. Not a huge stain, I think it is was probably from the barbecue because I usually wear an apron when I'm in the kitchen.

Anyway I wanted to rescue this top, I like it, it's new and far too good to relegate to a garden shirt.

I tried my usual stand-by of dishwashing liquid and it faded it a little but it was still there. Not having any stain removing soap made (that'll teach me to procrastinate) I thought and thought until I realised the answer was probably right in front of me: eucalyptus oil.

I was a little wary of putting any more oil on the top but I really didn't have anything to lose. If the stain didn't shift the top was ruined anyway.

Here's how I treated the stain:
1. Took my bottle of pure eucalyptus oil and poured five drops onto the stain.
2. Turned the top inside out.
3. Gently rubbed the stain by folding the mark over on itself and very, very gently massaging the oil into the stain.
4. Let it sit for five minutes then tossed it into the whites load.
5. Hung it on the clothesline to dry in the sun.

Why did I turn the top inside out to rub in the eucalyptus oil? Because I was taught years ago that rubbing the stain on the face of the fabric would make it penetrate right through the fabric, making it almost impossible to remove. So I turn things inside out and rub from the back, forcing the stain out of the fabric.

And the good news is it worked! The stain is gone, the top is saved and wearable again, I'm happy and determined to never forget to put on an apron again!

The top I treated is 100% cotton knit and while it has a very light stripe it didn't fade or run. If your garment is coloured or patterned do a test patch first, just in case the eucalyptus reacts with the dyes and causes  fading or running.

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21 January 2015

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Financial Goals

S.M.A.R.T. goals help you design goals that meet your individual circumstances so you can achieve them and live the life you desire. Whether you’re making spending, savings, income, or investment goals, creating SMART goals helps ensure your success!

S.M.A.R.T. = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely

Example of how a SMART financial goal can work for you:

‣Create a SMART Goal: I will save $1,000 in the next 50 weeks so I can pay for my next holiday in cash.

‣Make a SMART plan: I will save $20 each week for the next 50 weeks by taking my lunch instead of buying fast food.

‣Follow your plan: Put that $20 away each week and pay for your holiday in cash!

Set yourself up for a secure financial future with SMART goals!

20 January 2015

MOO Creamy Pasta Salad

This recipe was contributed by Cheapskater 3ForMe and was an instant hit! It is so close to the creamy pasta salad sold from Woolworth's deli counters you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference in a blind taste test.

Creamy Pasta Salad

250g uncooked medium sized pasta
1 med size carrot, grated
1 stick celery, chopped
1 med spring onion, white part discarded, finely chopped
1/2 red capsicum, diced
2/3 cup grated tasty cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1 x 300ml bottle ready-made coleslaw dressing (praise traditional)
3 heaped tablespoon sour cream
Add or delete whichever ingredients you don't like
1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water, drain and chill
2. In small bowl, combine the coleslaw dressing and sour cream
3. Combine pasta, vegetables, cheese and coleslaw dressing mix
4. Season and Chill and VOILA!!

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19 January 2015

What's growing in your vegetable garden?

I popped out to the garden early this morning and just stood and looked around at the plants and the trees (and the weeds).

The rampant pumpkin vines put a smile on my face. They really are taking over the back yard. Now if only the possums would stop eating the little pumpkins we might actually be able to harvest some. I'm actually looking forward to picking some beautiful Queensland Blue pumpkins and put them away for winter, especially as pumpkin is so expensive to buy - $1.50kg at my local greengrocer.

The tomatoes are going great guns. This year I put them in frames to try and control them without having to stake and tie them and it seems to be working. Most of them are full, lush bushes loaded down with tonnes of green fruit. A couple of days of nice hot, sunny weather should have them turning red and then it will be a race between me and the birds to get them first. I've been picking them at the first hint of red and letting them ripen on the kitchen windowsill but I'd rather vine ripened.

The beans are looking a tad sad. Not sure why, they haven't been great this year. The capsicums however are producing better than they ever have. We really have a glut of capsicum. I'm picking two or three every day, then dicing or slicing and freezing for winter.

The lettuce are looking perky and crisp. I don't grow too many lettuce, they are a bit of a waste of space with little nutritional benefit for the space and water they need. A half dozen usually see us through the summer with picking a few leaves off each plant when required.
Do you like eggplant? We love it and the six plants are keeping us in this delicious vegetable with plenty for freezing for winter.
My basil is trying to go to seed. I'm pinching out flowers every day and picking leaves to dry as fast as I can. There are  six basil plants in amongst the tomatoes, maybe that's why they're doing so well? Tomatoes and basil just seem to go together in cooking, perhaps it's the same in the garden.

The strawberries are on their second fruiting for the season. These are my extravagance, they take up a lot of room and really for the fruit they produce the space could be put to better use. But every garden has to have at least one plant because it's beautiful and loved and not just practical. They produce enough to make jam and I honestly think there is nothing as sweet as a sun-kissed strawberry picked and eaten straight away. Perhaps that's why we don't get a lot of strawberries - too much picking and enjoying instead of picking and preserving.

There are three cucumber vines and typical of cucumbers they are bountiful. I've made jars and jars of bread and butter cucumbers and we've eaten them with our salads, on sandwiches, with dips and just like a banana and still there's more.

The apple tree is full of apples and again it is a race between me and the birds to see who gets them first. At the moment it is a draw, but only because I've been able to get the boys up the ladder to pick them early in the morning.

There are oranges on the orange tree, lemons on the lemon tree, limes on the lime tree and mandarins on the little mandarin tree.

The rhubarb is growing and at the end of summer I'll separate the crowns and start some new plants off. We love rhubarb. It's another one of the "easy to grow, so expensive to buy" foods so having it in the garden to pull as we want too is wonderful.

That's what's growing in my vegetable garden at the moment.  What's growing in yours?

Easiest Ever Lamingtons

Lamingtons are my favourite cake and you can't get a more Australian cake than the lamington. My problem is that to make them the traditional way takes too long. When I want a lamington I want it now, I don't want to have to make a plain cake, wait a day (because fresh cake doesn't cut or coat nicely), then go through the dipping process.

So this easy cheat on traditional lamingtons is perfect. You can have fresh lamingtons on the table in around 30 minutes, perfect if you have a sudden craving or unexpected visitors (or your kids tell you as they are going to bed that they need to take something to share for a class party the next day).

This recipe relies on a bought sponge. You can buy a double layer plain sponge at the supermarket. I buy the block sponge when it is on markdown and stash it in the freezer until I need to use it.

Having it frozen helps speed up the making process too - frozen cake is easier to cut into squares and the icing sets faster.  Of course you don't need to use the cake frozen, it's just that if it is in the freezer you don't need to thaw it.

Easiest Ever Lamingtons

1 packet block sponge cake (double layer)
2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
¼ cup milk
¼ cup boiling water
2-½ cups coconut

Cut the sponge cake into 7cm x 5cm (approximately) rectangles. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a medium bowl. Add the milk and boiling water and stir until smooth. Pour the coconut into a small bowl. Use a fork to individually dip the cakes into the chocolate icing then turn them over. Don't leave them in the icing too long or they'll go soggy - just dip, cover and turn. When covered with icing remove with the fork and place them in the coconut. Turn the cakes over until they are covered in coconut. Place the lamingtons on a cake rack until the icing is set.

Here's an old tip for coating your cakes with the icing. If you have a Tupperware Pick-a-Deli (the beetroot/pickle container) put the icing into the container and then use the strainer to dip the cakes. Just put one on the strainer, lower it into the icing, lift it out, let it drain for a couple of seconds and then tip the cake into the coconut. Saves messing about with forks and getting drips everywhere. There are other similar containers around, if you have one that will hold your icing and your cake use it.

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16 January 2015

Frugal Haystacks!

Haystacks are a family favourite and we enjoy them regularly. They're quick and easy to make and topped with lots of lovely fresh veggies they are the perfect easy meal all year round.

This recipe is one of the most requested from the Cheapskates Club Recipe File. Every time they are mentioned in a meal plan or a newsletter I get emails asking what they are and for the recipe.

Frugal Haystacks

2 tins baked beans in tomato sauce
1 tin red kidney beans (or dried equivalent, soaked and cooked)
3 tbsp MOO taco seasoning (or 1 packet)
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 tins diced tomatoes

Sauté onion, add taco seasoning and then beans and tomatoes. Heat through. Serve over corn chips or toasted pita bread or torn mountain bread (I've even put it over pappadums in a pinch) add salad to suit, top with salsa and sour cream.

I usually put the salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cheese, salsa, sour cream) out and let them make their own.

This makes a double quantity, so half goes in the freezer for the next time. Freezes well and it makes a great filling for stuffed spuds too.

Buying Big

Excuse my slightly messy shelves! This is just one of my bulk storage areas.

Food. We love it. We need it. And it is the biggest flexible expense for most families. Buying your groceries in bulk is a fantastic way to save money.

I love bulk shopping. I love the shop once, pack it all away once, then relax for a month or three or twelve. Yes, some things I buy in bulk monthly, others I buy in bulk quarterly (think meat and chicken and some frozen products) and others I only buy once a year (wrapping paper, cards, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher powder, borax, washing soda, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant etc. when they come on sale).

If you have never shopped and bought your groceries in bulk quantities before, these tips will help you decide if it's for you and make it that much easier.

Getting started

Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, time and energy. But beware - only buy what you know you'll use, and within a reasonable period of time. If the family doesn't like brown rice and you won't use it in a month of Sundays, it's not a bargain no matter how cheap it is!

If you are a bulk buying beginner try switching from weekly shopping to monthly for a couple of months. Work out your average weekly shopping list and multiply by four. Go to the shops once and through the month make a note of what you run out of or don’t use up. This will give you the feel of bulk buying and a really good idea of exactly how much you really use of each item.

What to buy in bulk

Great things to buy in bulk include items that you buy every week and that you always keep in stock. Canned goods, baking supplies, dry goods, frozen foods, toilet paper, toiletries and cleaning products are all a good choice. Most non-perishable items are perfect for bulk buying.

Fruit, vegetables and meat are often much cheaper in bulk but they do have a limited shelf life. Perishables should only be bought in bulk if you can use them up, share them or preserver them (either dehydrating, freezing or bottling) before they go off.

The same rule applies to non-perishables too. If you only use one tin of smoked oysters a year, buying a case isn't really saving you any money, even if they are half price. You are better off putting that money towards the bulk purchase of something you use regularly to take full advantage of the saving.

Where do I keep it all?

If you are serious about bulk buying, you will need to set up a 'store'. This can be a cupboard in the house, or some shelves in the garage. Preferably it will be somewhere dry, relatively dark and cool. You can utilize the space under beds, behind furniture, even the dryer can be used to store things (don’t forget to take them out before you use it).

Name it and rotate it

A key to bulk storage is labelling. Make sure all containers are air-tight and clearly labelled and dated. Bulk goods generally have a long shelf life because they have been prepared with long-term storage in mind.

Always rotate your stock so you are using the oldest first. A good rule is to always put new stock at the back of the shelf or bottom of the pile. Storing food this way ensures you won’t have to worry about wastage because food has deteriorated.

15 January 2015

MOOing Washing Powder

This must be the week for questions about washing powder, I seem to have answered quite a few. It must be time to talk about MOOing washing powder, why I do it, how I do it and how great it really is.

I've been making our own washing powder for years and years and years - at least 18 - I can't really remember when I started but I think Hannah was either a newborn or very, very young.

I used to make this gloopy stuff that worked really well and was really cheap - when you don't have an income really cheap is really good and in those days our income was unreliable (and that's being generous!). The only problems I had with the gloopy stuff were that it made heaps (I kept it in a nappy bucket with a lid), our laundry was outside and I had two very curious, very active, very mischievous little boys. Those three things together were a recipe for disaster. After losing an almost full bucket of gloop to those mischievous monkeys I decided I either had to find a better way to store it, build a nice new laundry (that wasn't going to happen any time soon) or give up and go back to powder.

Or make my own powder! Doh! It really was a lightbulb moment when realised I didn't have to mix the soap, washing soda and borax into water and cook it up to make gloop, I could just mix the dry ingredients together and use it as a powder.

I think that lightbulb moment has been my all-time favourite. I know it has saved us thousands of dollars over the years, not just on washing powder but on clothes that may otherwise have been relegated to the rag bag because they were stained. This stuff is great for getting stains out of clothes. I should know I'm the messiest cook ever and even with an apron I can get my clothes stained. And Wayne! Oh my, but he works with grease and gunk all day. He also works with graphite and I swear nothing is harder to shift from clothes than graphite. Not even a tomato stain is as hard to shift.

But my MOOed washing powder removes graphite stains from his work clothes completely.

It is a very simple recipe, three main ingredients that you can get at any supermarket, in the laundry/cleaning aisle: laundry soap, washing soda and borax.

I know some of you will email to say you can't find washing soda or borax - trust me when I say they are there, you just need to look for them. And if they really aren't in stock at your supermarket ask if they can be ordered for you.

This has to be the cheapest and best value laundry detergent around.

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.

I use the zester side of my grater to do the soap. It makes it a very fine powder so it dissolves completely even in cold water. If you have a food processor break the soap up with a hammer or rolling pin and whizz it. Or use the grater attachment to grate it then whizz it to a powder. And yes it is safe to use your food grater or processor to do this as long as you wash it  properly when you've finished, after all you would wash it in the dishwasher or with dishwashing detergent if you'd used it for food wouldn't you.

It really is that easy. If you don't believe me watch this video of me making a batch.

You can use up the small slivers of toilet soap you collect if you like, ordinary bath soap or laundry soap. This recipe is ideal for using up all the leftovers you collect in the family bathroom.

This detergent won’t produce masses of suds, but it will get your clothes clean.

Now if you don't believe it will get your clothes clean you can give the washing powder an extra boost if you wash really dirty or greasy clothes by adding one small 250g box of bi-carb soda to the mix. But it isn't necessary, I don't do it.

The benefits, other than the cost saving, are that your washing machine doesn't get a build-up of gunk around the top of the drum or in the hoses. Cheapskates washing powder helps to keep them clean and clear.

When I make a batch I quadruple the recipe so four bars of soap, 4 cups washing soda and 2 cups borax. This is enough to last me almost a year doing 8 loads of washing a week. I keep it in a tin in the laundry with an old teaspoon on the top for measuring. And yes, I measure the three teaspoons for each load. Using more won't get the clothes any cleaner it will just cost more.

With five of us in the house, four lots of bed linen and five lots of towels I feel like I am always doing laundry but I'm happy to know it isn't costing me a fortune.

Oh, another thing: this washing powder doesn't make us itchy, it doesn't cause any of us to break out in eczema, it doesn't irritate at all, unlike some commercial powders and detergents, something AJ,Hannah and I are very grateful for.

Have I sold you on MOOing washing powder? If you've never tried it give it a go. It takes less than 5 minutes to make and will save you a fortune.

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A Simple Way to Clean the Oven, Racks and All

I clean my oven the same way Cheapskater Kirsty cleans hers, using dishwasher powder instead of nappy soaker (I don't use it!). It is the easiest, least scrubbing required method of cleaning the oven I've found and it works on even the dirtiest oven racks and filthiest oven. I use my Mr Clean microfibre clothes and they do a brilliant job too.

A Simple Way to Clean the Oven, Racks and All

"Everyone hates cleaning the oven, especially using those horrible chemicals on the very dirty racks. Before going to bed line the laundry sink with foil (Homebrand is great), add a scoop of Nappy San and hot water. Next add the racks from the oven and leave overnight. There is a reaction that occurs with the foil, soaker and the racks that cleans them without any hard work on our part. Just wipe with a cloth and dry and put them back in your clean oven. The oven can be cleaned with the water and a cloth. I use Enjo, but others would work just as well. The rangehood has these silver looking guards that collect all the grease and grime when cooking, if you take them out and put them in your dishwasher they will come out sparkling clean."
Contributed by Kirsty

14 January 2015

MOOing Yoghurt

We go through a lot of yoghurt in our house. I like it with fruit and crunchy granola for breakfast. We use plain yoghurt to replace sour cream and to make dips. I add it to smoothies. We all snack on it. We just love it.

So, with that in mind, one of the first things I learned to do when Disaster Struck, was to make yoghurt.

Way back then I snaffled a wide-mouthed food thermos and an old Bushells coffee jar off mum to use. These days I have two Easiyo thermoses and two Aldi yoghurt thermoses. Is "thermoses" the correct spelling for the plural of thermos? Just wondering.

I prefer the Aldi kits for the shape, they are shorter and rounder, more like bowls than the long jars from the Easiyo kits. The both work with exactly the same results; the Aldi kits were around $10 each, the Easiyo kits are around $20 to buy (although they are regularly on sale for $10 - $15), I was given both of mine. Look for them in op shops or at garage sales and you'll pick one up for just a couple of dollars, they pop-up regularly.

Making yoghurt, even flavoured yoghurt or a luscious, thick Greek yoghurt is simple. Really. Don't believe you can't do it - you can. And it is not only simple but really, really easy. Master yoghurt making (it will only take one attempt) and you'll have yet another thing to cross off your shopping list.

MOO yoghurt takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, costs a grand total of $1.17 a kilo and saves the Armstrong family $11.79 a week!

To make 1 litre of yoghurt you will need:

A clean 1 litre jar with a screw top lid
A wide mouthed thermos that will hold the jar
2 cups milk powder (either full cream or skim, it's up to you)
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt (this is the starter)
Cool water (tap water is fine as long as it's not really cold).

Half fill the jar with cool water, add the milk powder and the 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt. Put the lid on and shake well to combine. Make sure there are no lumps of milk powder left. Really shake it well - if you have a stick blender then use it to mix the milk powder, yoghurt and water. Fill the jar to the top with cool more water, seal and shake well.

Place the jar in the thermos. Pour boiling water around the jar until it reaches approximately 2/3 of the way up the sides. Put the lid on the thermos, sealing it tight.

Set aside for  8 - 12 hours, depending on how thick you like your yoghurt. Once it has reached the consistency you like, place the jar of yoghurt in the fridge to cool.

Now this is the most important step: save 2 tablespoons of the unflavoured yoghurt to act as a starter for your next batch.

And if you've bought a tub of plain yoghurt to use as a starter, you can freeze the leftovers in two tablespoon blobs so you'll have it when you want to make your next batch. Just let it thaw before you add it to the milk powder and water.

Sweeten to taste with sugar or honey and add fruit, syrups, muesli etc.

Most commercial yoghurt that is "thick and creamy" has had a thickener of some kind added. If you like a thick, Greek style yoghurt use full cream milk [powder and leave it out at least 12 hours. You can safely leave it out for up to 24 hours to set. The longer you let it set before chilling the thicker and tarter the yoghurt will be.

Add any flavourings or sweeteners after the yoghurt has set.

Some flavouring suggestions:

*Vanilla: Add 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 1 tablespoon vanilla ice-cream flavouring and 2 teaspoons sugar. Mix well.
*Strawberry: Add 2 tablespoons strawberry topping and 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
*Honey: Add 1 teaspoon vanilla essence and 1 tablespoon honey. Mix well.
*Passionfruit: Stir through 2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp and sweeten to taste
*Mango: Stir through 2 tablespoons mashed mango and sweeten to taste. Top with sliced mango.

You can use this yoghurt, unflavoured, as a substitute for sour cream on baked potatoes, nachos, enchiladas, tacos and even in dips, saving even more money and cutting yet another item off the grocery list.

This yoghurt will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, if you can keep it that long. It certainly doesn't last more than a couple of days in our home.

I know that many Cheapskaters use Easiyo with great results. The starters are a little pricey for me, especially after making it for just a few cents with powdered milk, but if you are more comfortable with the Easiyo sachet then you will still save money making your own yoghurt.

If you have an Easiyo thermos and jar, you can use them to make your yoghurt too.

I make yoghurt not only because it saves me money. I know what goes into it (no preservatives, additives, artificial sweeteners) and it is so convenient. We never run out, I can whip up a batch overnight, as easy as shaking a jar.

If you've never tried to make yoghurt it really is easy. Give it a try, you don't have anything to lose and lots of dollars to gain.

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6 Tips to Save on Back-to-School Supplies

Pencils, pads, pens, and notebooks mean it's that time again! All parents know that back-to-school shopping can add up quickly. However, there are things you can do to minimize the cost. This school year, save yourself some money with the following tips.

1. Shop at home first. 

You most likely already have several things at home that can be used or re-used. Look in your office for pencils, pens, unused notebooks, notebook paper, folders and more. Remember to check your child's book bag, crayons, lunch box, and anything else that comes to mind.  

2. Stick to the list. 

Any item not on the list provided by your child's school probably isn't needed. Although kids may beg for extra supplies, make a rule that if something isn't on the list, you won't buy it. They can have fun picking out the items that are actually needed.

3. Consider the source. 

Many parents immediately think of large super-stores as the best source of school supplies. Remember to consider the offerings of discount stores, newsagents and even grocery stores.

4. Watch for the sales. 

As the calendar closes in on the beginning of the school year, keep your eyes open. As soon as Christmas is over, the back-to-school sales abound, and the smart shopper will be on the lookout for the best deals. Often one store will have notebooks on sale for one cent, while another will have a great sale on pencils.

5. Team up with another parent. 

By joining forces with another parent, you have the opportunity to purchase items in bulk at reduced prices. Then divide up the supplies and the savings.

6. Check your eligibility for the SchoolKids Bonus. 

The Education Tax Refund was replaced by the SchoolKids Bonus. This is an amount of money ($205 per primary school child, $410 per secondary school child) paid directly to parents in January and again in July to help with the costs of educating your children.  It is being phased out but you may still qualify, from 1st January this year (2015) an income test applies. The last payment will be made in July 2016. 

Back-to-school time is exciting for everyone, but for parents it can also be a financially stressful time of the year. But school starting doesn't have to break the bank. Get your book and stationery list, stick to it, and focus on saving money by following these tips. This school year might just cost you less than any other.

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13 January 2015

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Summer is salad season, but salad doesn't have to be boring lettuce and tomato on a plate or that Australian favourite coleslaw. If you'd like to try something different try this watermelon and feta salad. Serve it icy cold from the fridge on its own as a starter or as a side to grilled chicken.

Juice of 2 limes
1 large red onion, cut in half then thinly sliced
1 medium watermelon,  cut into 2cm cubes (about 15 cups)
1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
250g feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh coriander, finely shredded
cracked black pepper
sea salt

In a small bowl, pour lime juice over red onion and set aside to marinate. In a large bowl very gently combine the watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese and coriander. Season with black pepper. Use your fingers to gently toss the watermelon salad with marinated onions. Chill until ready to serve. Season with sea salt just before serving.

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