24 February 2015

Italian Eggplant Steaks

I have eggplant abundance at the moment. They have been the best producing plants in the veggie patch this summer, so I've been looking for different ways to use it. What I've found is that eggplant is one of the best vegetables to grill, but you must be careful with eggplant to reach a grilled perfection.

Always cut your eggplant to 6mm thickness. If you cut it to thin it will char and if too thick it will dry out.  If you're not marinating the eggplant slice coat them with oil before grilling.  Be sure to always grill eggplant on high heat; cooking too slow gives an unpleasant texture and will cause them to become dry.  Any type of your favourite dressing or marinade can be used in this recipe. Try French or Thousand Island or Ranch for a tasty change.

Italian Eggplant Steaks

1  or 2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 6mm slices
1 bottle of Italian dressing

Prepare the barbecue grill for medium hot heat.
Place the eggplant into a shallow bowl.
Pour the dressing over the eggplant and turn the eggplant to coat well.
Let the eggplant stand in the dressing for 15 minutes to absorb the liquid.
Place the eggplant on the grill and cook for 8 minutes, turning occasionally or until crispy on the outside but still soft in the middle.

Serves 4.

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20 February 2015

Living the Cheapskates Way - Without Feeling Deprived

We've been living this way for so long it has become more than a habit, it is so much an ingrained part of our lives that when I went to my inbox yesterday afternoon and read Shelley's email I was a little confused.

Shelley wrote "I've been trying for months to be a Cheapskate. I write a meal plan and a shopping list and I try to stick to it. I go around turning off power points and lights in empty rooms. I've instigated the no air-conditioner unless it's over 30 rule in the hopes of keeping the power bill down. I don't buy anything unless we need it, and I try to shop around and buy as cheaply as I can. I haven't bought new clothes in over six months and I've cut back my hair cuts to every 12 weeks instead of the regular 6 weekly trim I've always had. I know the bill money is there and we are still eating, we are getting a little ahead on our mortgage and I know I should feel good about it but I don’t. I just feel deprived, like I'm missing out. What am I doing wrong? How can you live like this for so long and be so happy and contented."

Really, what was the problem? She was paying the bills, feeding the family, they had a roof over their heads and a regular income. What did she have to feel deprived about?

I am happy and contented, thank you. And I apologise to Shelley for my lack of empathy.

What she missed, and I had forgotten, is that we have been living this way for almost 20 years and in the beginning I felt just like Shelley. I hated having to not only count but account for every cent we spent. I hated having to deliberately find free things for us to do at home instead of going out to dinner or to the movies or taking the kids on holiday like we had been able to. I was like Shelley too, I really, really hated not being able to get my hair cut every six weeks. For me that was the absolute hardest part of our lifestyle change so Shelley has all my sympathy, I know just how she feels.

But that was our time of extreme frugality. It was the time when we had to cut right back to the bare bones of spending to just survive.

What helped was knowing that this was just a short period of time in the grand scheme of our lives. That it wasn't forever, things would improve. Once we'd paid off some debts and worked out a true spending plan for the tiny income we had life became easier. We still had to count and account for every cent but there was room in the budget for occasional treats (and eventually I was able to get my hair cut regularly again).

I had also changed my attitude. I liked our lifestyle BDS (before disaster struck), I most definitely did not want to change it. The problem was that our income had dropped dramatically and wasn't going to improve any time soon so I had to find other ways to maintain our standard of living.

I found other ways to have the things we needed and wanted. I learned to shop smarter, cook, sew, knit, grow a garden. I learned to entertain at home instead of going out. I learned how to throw a birthday party for 20 kids for $20. Basically I changed the way I looked at the money I spent and what I received for it.

Wayne and I also sat down and had a good hard look at our lifestyle. We looked at the things that were really important to us and at the things that were really just fluff, things we did and had because everyone else had them or did them. And we consciously chose to ditch the stuff that wasn't important to us so we would have the money to pay for the things that were.

Often when you first make the decision to live the Cheapskates way you go at it all gung-ho, believing it has to be all or nothing and the changes must be immediate, but it takes time to completely change your lifestyle, especially if you are changing a family's lifestyle at the same time.

Remember baby steps, and one at a time. Along the way allow yourself a few treats and if you find something you really, really dislike, look for a frugal alternative that will fit with your new lifestyle.

There is no right or wrong way to live the Cheapskates way. What works for one Cheapskate may seem beyond mean and miserly to another, and a complete extravagance to yet another.

It's up to you to choose how you live the Cheapskates way. You choose just how frugal you want to be and just how that will fit in with yours and your family's lifestyle.

Shelley what I'm trying to say, in a very long-winded way, is try not to do anything that makes you feel deprived or like you are missing out.

Cheapskating isn't about being miserable with the most money in the bank.

It is about learning how you can live life debt free, cashed up and laughing.

It's about living the good life for less, and enjoying every day of it.

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19 February 2015

Our Frugal Wedding Anniversary has Changed our Marriage

We had a wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. Wayne and I have known each other for 41 years (I know, I was gob-smacked when I worked that out) and have been happily and contentedly married for 26 of them.

Because our anniversary comes so close after Christmas and until last year was smack at the beginning of back-to-school we haven't really done anything very special to celebrate. Usually a special dinner and dessert at home with the kids and maybe a DVD. Money has always been tight so splurging just wasn't possible.

Until this year.

We don't overspend at Christmas, it is always budgeted and paid for well before December. And this year we don't have school fees or uni fees to pay. We're not forking out for bus passes and text books or uniforms and shoes so I had a little flex in the Spending Plan and we decided to treat ourselves to a movie and dinner.

I used money I had been saving to splurge on Gold Class tickets. If you've ever doubted that saving 50 cent coins is worth it I can tell you that my 50 Box paid for our movie tickets and dinner. Whenever I have a 50 cent coin I drop it in the box. When the box is full I take it to the bank, pour it into the change machine and cash in the receipt. Then I stash the cash in the safe. I don't miss the odd 50 cent out of my purse, I'm actually glad to get rid of the coins.

We had a lovely evening. It has been over a year since we've been out by ourselves for pleasure. Don't get me wrong, we are often out with friends or we are surrounded by the kids and family and we love it, but we don't seem to get time to be just us, together. And that disappointed me.

I love my husband but more importantly I actually like him and I really enjoy his company. Our children aren't children any more, they are young adults and they are moving forward and building their own lives, as they should. Wayne and I aren't old, well we don't think we are, and we have a lot of marriage and life still ahead of us. I don't want us to become the couple who don't have anything in common or to talk about, who only communicate when they are with other people.

I don't want to sit across the dinner table and not have anything to share with my husband.

So we've decided to make more time for us.

We won't always be enjoying a Gold Class movie. Sometimes it will just be a drive into the hills and a look at the cute shops. Other times it might be dinner at the local bistro on a two-for-one coupon. Or maybe just a new DVD to watch together with a bowl of caramel corn to share.

Most of the things we'll do won't cost anything and if there is a cost it will be minimal or something we've specially saved for because that's just how we are.

But we'll be together, sharing the experiences and talking to each other. Hopefully for at least another 41 years!

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18 February 2015

Washing the Washing Machine

Monday I explained how to clean and maintain your dishwasher. Today I'm going to go over how to clean my next favourite household appliance - the washing machine.

I wash every day except Saturday. Some days I do two loads a day to get bedding and towels clean, or those extra stinky sports clothes or like yesterday Wayne's super filthy, mud stained clothes from our day out on Sunday (he was on his back under a friend's four wheel drive a couple of times - and in a good shirt too!).

My washing machine gets a good workout, but it is a newer HE machine and frankly I really do long for my old Hoover. It didn't need to be babied and coddled like this one does. A once-a-month clean kept it going for almost 30 years.

My new machine needs to be cleaned regularly, it tells me when it needs to be done, and the process takes three hours and uses three loads of hot water.

There is an easier, cheaper and much more energy efficient way to keep your washing machine clean and in tip top shape, and it works. It's the method I've been using for 26 years.

First thing you need to do is find out if your washing machine actually has a lint filter. My HE machine doesn't, check your handbook to find out if your machine has a lint filter.

If your washing machine is a top loader it should have a lint filter in the agitator.  Pull out the top of the agitator and it should have some kind of little bag or basket attached to it.

Gently take it off and give it a good clean. You may need to empty the lint out of it first. Then rinse it under hot water. If you use fabric softener then you will also need to soak it for a few minutes in white vinegar. Fabric softeners leave a film over the mesh that actually stops the water from getting through. You need to get rid of this build up.

Front loaders have different lint filters - check your handbook to find out where it is and how to get to it.

If you empty and rinse the lint filter after every wash you'll stop those black flakes of gunk that sometimes appear on your washing - that's the old muck out of the lint filter flowing back up into the bowl. Yuk!

While the lint filter is soaking, get a cloth and a bucket of warm water and add a splash of vinegar (about 1 cup). Use this to wipe around the top of the bowl, under the lid, over the outside of the cabinet etc. Don't forget the inside of the agitator and the fabric softener dispenser. If it's particularly grungy, sprinkle with bi-carb and use this as a scouring powder. Just watch your fingers - the edges of all those ridges and rims can be sharp (guess how I know!).

Put the lint filter back together and replace the top of the agitator. Then run your washing machine through a full cycle on the longest and hottest wash cycle (this is the only time I use a hot wash) and add a full 2 litre bottle of vinegar to it. Don't add any clothes or other detergents; let the vinegar work its magic. The vinegar will remove the scum and gunk and any hard-water build up in the bowl and hoses.

Wipe over the outside of the machine with a damp cloth and dry.

You washing machine will sparkle inside and out. Do this on a regular basis and you'll extend the life of your machine and save on costly maintenance calls.

My handbook suggests every 100 washes, for me that's about every two months because of the amount of washing I do. For my mother it's every six months or so as she only does two loads a week. If your family is larger you may need to do this more often. It may seem like a tedious chore but it is worth taking care of this most useful household appliance.

Think about what you'd do if you couldn't use your washing machine for a week - hand-washing, paying for the laundromat -and you'll see the benefit quickly.

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Groceries I don't Buy

(which is why we can live on $320 a month)

I buy lots of things.  I buy butter and olive oil and spelt flour and free range eggs and full cream milk and fresh meat and poultry. I buy sugar and pure maple syrup and vanilla beans and almonds. I buy cheese and cream and  rice. I buy a lot of other things too, too many to list here.

I buy ingredients.

What I don't buy is pre-packaged salads. If we want salad I use the lettuce, cucumber, capsicums, onions, tomatoes and herbs we grow in the backyard.

I don't buy cakes and biscuits. If we want cakes and biscuits I bake them, from scratch. I weigh out the ingredients according to the recipe I'm following and turn them into tasty, healthy treats for my family.

I don't buy jam. I can make four jars of raspberry jam for the price of one bought jar. Any my jam tastes so much better and looks prettier on the shelf with its homemade label.

I don't buy instant puddings. I have a recipe for a bulk mix for instant pudding that is too die for, takes about three minutes to whip up and costs around a third of the price of a packet instant pudding.

I don't buy pizzas or pizza bases. Penny Pinching Pizzas are the best and I can make three large pizzas for the price of one bought pizza.

I don't buy pizza sauce either. I use the tomatoes from the garden, along with the garlic and herbs we grow to make a thick, tasty pizza sauce that costs around 40 cents a 500g jar.

I don't buy cordial. Instead I use either free or very cheap fruit to make a delicious cordial without artificial colours or preservatives.  If we want soft drink I make lemonade and ginger beer or rhubarb champagne. They cost around 45 cents a bottle to make.

I don't buy potato or corn chips. Instead I MOO pita crisps. Sometimes they are plain, sometimes they are seasoned with herbs or garlic.  I can make 500g of pita chips for 89 cents and again, I know exactly what's in them, nothing artificial.

I don't buy cake mixes. It is faster and so much cheaper to find a recipe and make your cakes, biscuits, muffins and scones "from scratch".

I don’t buy English muffins or crumpets or tortillas. They are all so easy to make from scratch and taste so much better when they are really fresh. They're cheaper too!

I never buy yoghurt. It's too easy to MOO. And nicer. And less than half the price - I can make a kilo of yoghurt for $1.20.

I never buy meat that costs more than $7 a kilo. I wait until it is on sale and then I stock up. My average per kilo price for meat for my family of five is $5.

I never buy frozen chips or wedges. Again they are tastier, healthier and cheaper to MOO.

I never buy frozen pies. With the pie maker (still going strong 20 years on) and Elaine's Easy Pastry I can make pies to suit our tastes whenever we want them.

I never buy fresh herbs. Apart from being so over-priced ($48/kg for basil anyone?) they are easy to grow in pots and at least then if a recipe requires fresh herbs you know they really are fresh and cost just a few cents per plant.

I don't buy sauces. I make a nice tomato sauce and a great barbecue sauce, my plum sauce isn't bad either. Worcestershire sauce is easy to make and adds just the right amount of zing to casseroles and gravies.

I never buy packaged icing. Seriously why would you? Icing is so easy to make and you can make just enough for your cake and not worry about how to keep the rest fresh until next time you get the urge to bake.

I never buy snack packs of nuts, dried fruits or trail mix. Again they are grossly over-priced and I can just as easily decant a small amount into a ziplock bag from the canister.

I never, ever buy microwave popcorn. It's easy to make either the old fashioned way on the stove, with a hot air popper or using a brown paper bag for the microwave method.

Marinades or marinated meat. Marinades add around $2 a kilo to the price of meat. There are so many recipes for different marinades, all of them made from pantry staples that I'd rather keep the $2 in my purse and just whip up my own.

I never buy pasta sauce. Like the pizza sauce it is just too easy to make, especially if you have a slow cooker. If you use homegrown produce a 500g jar of pizza sauce will be virtually free - perhaps 30 cents to cover the cost of salt and power for cooking?

There are aisles in my supermarket I've never been down, not even to have a look. I used to wonder what was in them but I don't anymore. I can see by what is in other people's trolleys just how expensive those aisles are.

My trolley is always full to overflowing, but it is with ingredients. Everything I buy makes more than one type of thing.

I am positive there are other things I don't buy that I haven't listed here.

My grocery budget is $320 a month and it has to stay at that. Buying ingredients and only ingredients and shopping smarter with a meal plan and detailed list will keep it that way.

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17 February 2015

I Confess, We Hate Kale!

Superfood. Good for us. Easy to grow. Versatile. I know all that. And I understand we should be including it in our diets.

I don't really care. My family does not like kale. We've tried it. I've grown two crops in the garden in the hope that somehow we'd be able to overcome our immense dislike of this vegetable and choke it down.

I've steamed it. I've dried it into chips. I've shredded it and added it to soups, stews, casseroles, pasta sauces, rissottos. I've stirred it through steamed brown rice with a spoonful of butter and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

None of us like it.

So I'm not going to fuss over it. It may well be the best thing since sliced bread, but it is not for my family. We eat a huge variety of vegetables that we really, really, really like. Skipping the kale isn't going matter at all.

We love silverbeet. We eat loads of English spinach. We eat plenty of other greens like broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower and different lettuces. We even eat brussels sprouts on occasion.

But we will never again donate garden space or plate space to kale. Life is too short to eat food we don't like, even if it is supposed to be good for us.

And I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt in saying we hate kale!

So what food have you tried and really loathed?

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Cheesy Potato Balls

These little bite-sized morsels of cheesy goodness are great fingerfood for a party, a nice starter to a meal or the perfect nibbly to enjoy with drinks. Serve them warm with a sauce for dipping - tomato or sweet chilli are good - and watch them disappear.

Cheesy Potato Balls

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups oil to fry
1/2 tsp. paprika

Boil or steam the potatoes until fork tender.
When the potatoes are cooked, mash well, adding salt, pepper and paprika.
Drop a tablespoon of the mashed potato on your hand and make it into a shape of a ball, now press the edges so it becomes flat.
Shape it into a well shape so you can fill it in with the cheese.
When your shape is right, add a teaspoon of grated cheese and shape the potato around it to make a ball so the cheese is completely enclosed in the potato.
Heat the oil on medium heat.
Fry the potato balls until they are golden brown.
Drain on brown paper or paper towel.

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16 February 2015

A Year of Saving - February 16th 2015

Well it's the 16th already and I'm just now catching up.

I love No Spending Month, it really makes it easy to keep my money in my purse. So much so that apart from milk, bread and some fruit I haven't spent a cent. So far I haven't even put petrol in my car - staying home really does save a lot of money.

I have had a couple of treats, lunch with Mum on Thursday. It's her treat, and there is no way she'll not have it so I don't even try to change it. But we have been having "cheaper" lunches.

We were away for a few days, took our food from home, camped, so no money spent. And it was bliss to be out of phone range for that time. No phone, no internet, no TV, no radio - just the sounds of rivers, birds, March flies and deer to break the silence. One night we had a deer wander through our campsite - oh my goodness they are huge and they make such a loud noise, it sounds like steel dragging over concrete, especially in the middle of the night :)

Since we've been home there's been only milk and bread bought.

I've done a quick freezer inventory and I think I can put off a meat shop until the end of March. The freezer is full, there is a lot of meat and chicken still, but I've been freezing tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum and beans from the garden too. Definitely no money spent there, I love free food. The seeds and water do have a cost, although it is a very small cost. Once I've been able to grow enough food to cover the cost of the seeds and water the rest of the crop is free - it really does pay to grow your own food.

Today, because it is a little cooler, I'll do some baking and get some biscuit dough into the freezer. The cake tins are empty and while we don't eat a lot of sweets if they're empty for too long I may have a revolt on my hands.

Oh, tonight's dinner will be "free" too. We had a roast chicken last night and I've pulled as much meat as I could off the bones to use in our fried rice. The bones are now in the freezer to make stock.

The dehydrator will get a workout today too. I've set it up on the back verandah and filled it with basil leaves. The basil is just growing so fast it is going to seed before I can use it. I picked about half of it early this morning and it's now drying so I can crush the leaves and store them for later. I have to say the verandah smells divine, sweet basil is one of my favourite scents.

We have 17 pumpkins growing in the backyard. I've been turning the every day so they don't get any soft spots on the skins. Come winter we'll have as much pumpkin soup as we can eat and I'm already salivating at the thought of all that lovely roasted pumpkin we will have. Drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with crushed garlic then baked until soft it is just amazing.

Not much to report, but still a few savings and a lot of "non-spending" so far this month.

Dishwasher Stuff

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love my dishwasher. I view my dishwasher as the one essential I can’t do without in the kitchen. I can’t stand a dirty, cluttered sink and I really hate washing dishes, so the dishwasher is a genuine need.

Now, I've had this same machine for over 10 years and it’s still going strong, doing wonderful things to dirty plates, glasses and cutlery and pots and pans and definitely saving me money, time and energy. Oh, it was cheap too – we only paid $400 for our dishwasher, it’s by no means a whiz bang fantastic machine. It is exactly what I want: a dishwasher I can put dirty dishes into and pull clean dishes out a short time later. Bliss!

There are a few tricks you can use to keep your dishwasher doing a top job, ensuring your dishes and glassware are properly washed and dried (no rough bits or spots!). And they are simple, easy and inexpensive, too.

1. Connect your dishwasher to the cold water. There are a couple of advantages to this: you’ll use less energy and the cold connection actually improves the wash performance of the machine. This is because with the cold connection, the water in the cabinet has to be heated and while this is happening, the dirty dishes are actually soaking. This softens food particles, especially those such as egg, which would “cook on” if they were rinsed with hot water immediately. Of course, if you are after speed, hook the machine to the hot water and the washing time is reduced.

2. Dishwashing detergent: It’s a personal choice, but I haven’t had a problem with the Homebrand Automatic Dishwasher detergent. I've also used ALDI dishwasher detergent (which has been discontinued) and of course Finish with great results. Your water will determine how much detergent you need to use. For soft water areas, 10 - 20 grams of detergent will do the job, in hard water areas, double it. I use two teaspoons of dishwasher powder for a normal load. If the pot or plates are particularly greasy, burnt or sticky then I use three teaspoons of powder. And yes I measure it out. The container of powder has a teaspoon in it just for this purpose.

TIP: Don‘t ever be tempted to use your ordinary hand-washing detergent it will cause way too much suds, giving an unsatisfactory wash and could even harm the machine.

3. Detergent substitutes: Use 1 tablespoon of bicarb soda with 1 tablespoon of borax. If you will be using this mixture on a regular basis, add vinegar to the rinse cycle every few loads.

TIP: Stretch your regular detergent by mixing it with the bi-carb/borax mixture.

4. Don’t rinse. Scrape off the chunks of food, but never pre-rinse items for the dishwasher. Automatic dishwasher detergent is highly alkaline and needs the acidity of the food to reach optimum cleaning action. Besides, rinsing wastes time, energy and water.

5. Stack it properly: Follow the instructions in the manual for loading the dishwasher. Make sure that dishes and cutlery allow the spray arms move freely. With cutlery, stack some up, some down in the basket.

TIP: For safety s sake, make sure pointy knives are point down in the basket.

6. Rinse aid: A rinse aid improves the sheeting action of water and leaves dishes sparkling clear, but it can be pricey. There are a number of generic rinse aids available, and they seem to do a reasonable job.

TIP: White vinegar is a reasonable substitute. Fill your rinse aid dispenser with straight white vinegar. Occasionally toss a cup of white vinegar to the last rinse to keep everything looking good!

7. Save water: It takes less than half the amount of water to run your dishwasher that it does to wash them by hand. So, give yourself a break and save water and money, too and let your dishwasher do the job for you!

13 February 2015

Cash Only!

How are you going with No Spending month? It can be easy to spend when you don't have to physically hand over the cash. Those credit and debit cards make it seem painless to buy things - just swipe, or these days tap, and collect your purchase. Simple! Easy! Painless! And at budget friendly!

For the rest of February try shopping only with cash - for petrol, milk, lunches, groceries, bills - and see what a difference it makes to your life. It will take some getting used to, but you can do it. And if you are worried about emergencies 'hide' $50 in the zipper compartment of your handbag or wallet. But don't spend it - it's emergency money only.

Force yourself to actually walk into a bank (of course you have time - you must get a lunch break and if you don't then use the ATM) and withdraw the cash you will need to get through the week. Then leave the plastic at home in a safe place and see how your attitude to spending changes.

When you know you only have so much to spend you are very conscious of what it is spent on.

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12 February 2015

MOO Doggy Soap Bars

Our dogs often become a part of our family, giving love and loyalty to us, and trusting us to care for them. We can feed them and make sure they are immunised, walk them and play with them and give them toys to play with.

And we bath them. Yes, our dogs need bathing regularly to maintain clean, healthy coats and skin. But did you know your dog can be as sensitive to chemicals in soaps and shampoos and end up with irritated and painful rashes, just like we can if the shampoo isn't right?

This Doggy Wash is gentle, safe and easy to make.  This soap includes tea tree oil as a natural antibacterial, vitamin E for skin healing and a gentle glycerine soap base.  Vegetable glycerine is easy to use (melt-and-pour), a natural vegetable product, very moisturizing, and extremely gentle on sensitive skin.

Doggy Soap Bars

You will need:
1 block Melt-and-Pour vegetable glycerine soap base
10ml liquid Vitamin E oil (found at pharmacies and natural health stores or squeeze from capsules)
5ml tea tree oil (do not be tempted to use more - this is the safe dose for dogs!)
Soap moulds (small yoghurt containers, silicone cake moulds etc.)
Cooking spray
Isopropyl alcohol

Step 1.  Fill your double boiler with water and bring it to the boil. Turn heat down so the water is just simmering.

Step 2. While the water is coming to the boil prepare your moulds. I use silicone cupcake moulds and spray them with a little cooking spray. Put them on a baking sheet so they have a stable base to cool on. You can use empty cartons, cans, muffin pans - anything that can withstand the heat of the melted soap base (it gets very hot).

Step 3. Cut your block of glycerine into chunks, about 2cm in size.

Step 4. Add the soap base to your double boiler. Pop the thermometer in the side and keep an eye on the temperature - you don't want it to go over 50 degrees Celsius. Stir the soap so it melts evenly. If the temperature goes up, take the pot off the heat and continue to stir until all the soap has melted.

Step 5. Take the soap off the heat and stir in the Vitamin E oil and the tea tree oil.

Step 6. Fill your moulds. I use a soup ladle, you can use a jug or a large spoon - anything that will hold the hot liquid.

Step 7. Spritz the top of each mould with the rubbing alcohol as soon as you fill it.

Step 8. Let the soaps harden. This will take at least a couple of hours. Turn them out of the moulds. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in a sealed plastic bag or container.  Glycerine will "sweat" during humid weather if not wrapped up, which doesn't affect its usefulness but is not so pretty. It's the same principle that draws moisture to your skin after using glycerine soap, so it's actually a good thing.

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11 February 2015

A Frugal and Romantic Budget Valentine's Day

Some people feel that they must spend a lot of money in order to impress the person they love on Valentine's Day to keep them from thinking they're cheap. Others assume that there's nothing worth doing that doesn't cost a lot of money. But the truth is that some of the best dates on Valentine's Day (or any other day) are either inexpensive or free.

This year Valentine's Day is Saturday so day time dates are easy, and they are often cheaper too.

* Have a picnic in the park. Eating sandwiches together might not sound like a recipe for romance in any other setting, but packing a simple lunch and enjoying it in a beautiful natural setting can be a really special event. To make it even more special, make it a surprise. Pack the picnic basket, sneak it into the car and ask your partner to go for a ride without sharing the destination until you're there.

* Check out free or low-cost concerts. In the summer, many cities have a free concert series in the park. You might also find live music for cheap at your local civic centre or at fundraisers. This is a great way to broaden your musical horizons together.

* Play miniature golf. It's not just for kids - mini golf courses can be found in any city and many smaller towns. It's easy to play, even if you've never played real golf. And it may be better if you're not a golf pro - the worse you and your partner are at it, the more fun you'll have!

* Visit an art gallery or museum. Some offer free admission, and you can get into many others for just a few bucks per person. This makes a great date for those who are just getting to know one another, because it provides plenty for you to talk about.

These are just a few ideas for dates that won't cost an arm and a leg. If you're willing to look for them, cheap Valentine's Day date opportunities abound. So don't give up on Valentine's Day just because you're on a budget. Get creative and find fun yet frugal activities to do together!

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10 February 2015

Perfect Wholemeal Pancakes Just in Time for Shrove Tuesday

We love pancakes, and I love to make them. They're quick, easy and very cheap. They are not however always the most healthful treat, so this recipe made with wholemeal flour and rolled oats is just what I like. We can have our pancake fix without the guilt of white flour and not much else.

The mix keeps really well in an airtight container for months, although once you have it made up it is so easy to just add the liquids and make them they will become your go to breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea, dessert.

Wholemeal Pancake Dry Mix:

4 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup plain flour
3-1/2 cups rolled oats
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp bicarbonate soda

Process rolled oats in food processor so they are broken up a little. Do not puree into a flour. In a large bowl mix oats, flours, sugar, baking powder and bicarb soda. Store in airtight container.

To make the pancakes:

1 cup of dry mix above
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon of orange juice
1 large egg

Place 1 cup of dry mix into a bowl.
Whisk in vegetable oil, buttermilk/almond milk, orange juice, and 1 large egg.
Cook in a lightly buttered frying pan.

To freeze your pancakes:

1. Lay pancakes out on a cookie sheet. Do not overlap them.
2. Place in freezer for 1 hour or until completely frozen.
3. Remove from freezer and place 3-4 in plastic freezer bag.
4. When ready to eat, place in microwave for 60 seconds or until hot.

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09 February 2015

Ten Crafts You Can Do with Everyday Items

Have you ever looked at a craft project and thought you'd like to try it, only to discover you need a zillion special supplies? Trips to the craft store can be fun, but they can also be time-consuming and expensive.

So why not do craft projects from items around the home? Here are ten crafts you can do with everyday items.

Scrap Paper

Despite the prominent use of email paper still inundates our lives. Make use of it with some of these craft ideas!

1. Quilling

Sometimes called paper filigree, you can achieve an amazing and detailed look with scrap paper. The principle is simple: wind thin strips of paper (1/16 to 1/8-inch wide strips) tightly around a thin tool or toothpick. Remove and shape with the fingers into flowers, hearts, vines, etc.

2. Papier Mache

Dip newspapers torn into strips into white glue and water mixed half and half. Layer them on a mould and allow to dry. Then sand smooth (if you like), paint, and decorate!

3. Paper Chains

Colourful magazines and even junk mail make great "links" for a paper chain. Cut into strips, link as rings, and make the chain as long as you like.

4. Decoupage

Cut out pictures and designs from magazines, pamphlets, or even wrapping paper. Then turn the cut-out over, scrape the edges thin from underneath (you can use a craft knife for this) and coat the back of the picture with decoupage medium. Carefully glue the design to the object (lamps, boxes, picture frames, table tops, etc.). Use a paintbrush to smooth and cover with more decoupage medium.

5. Paper Beads

To make paper beads, follow the method for quilling - except coat the paper strip with decoupage medium before you wrap it (leaving about 1/4 inch decoupage-free at the beginning so you can slip it off the toothpick when finished) and wrap at a slight angle. Add a dab of glue or decoupage medium to secure the end. If you like, paint the paper before cutting it into strips.

6. Place Mats

Cut brown paper bags or other scrap paper into strips, and weave into place mats. Cover with paint and/or decoupage medium.

Cardboard Tubes

 Toilet paper and paper towel tubes can be the inspiration for all kinds of crafts!

7. Hair Clips

Take a 10cm cardboard tube (cut to size) and cut it in half vertically, so you have an open trough shape. Paint with acrylic paint, let dry, and hot glue beads, silk flowers, and other decorative items to the outward-curved side. Glue a plain hair clip to the underside.

8. Napkin Rings

Cut cardboard tubes into two- or four-centimetre-wide rings. Paint with acrylic paint, and when dry, hot glue beans, beads, and spices (like whole cloves and peppercorns) to the outside of the ring. Or you could coat the painted tube with white glue and roll it in a mixture of seeds, beads, beans, and so forth.


Over the years, many of us accumulate a collection of non-prescription sunglasses. Use them in these craft ideas!

9. Lens Chimes

Pop out the lenses of your sunglasses. Hot glue them to varying lengths of thin wire (1 lens per wire) or upholstery thread, and hang them in the wind!

10. Empty Sunglasses Frames

Now you can have fun with the frames. Hot glue beads and rhinestones to them, coat them with glitter, or hot glue feathers and other items to them. You can create a great costume accessory or mask!

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06 February 2015

Shop to the Floor Plan

Approximate $ Savings: $25.00 to $40.00 per week  

When doing the groceries get a map of the shop detailing where the items are and then write your shopping list according to the aisles e.g. aisle 1 nappies, baby wipes; aisle 2 shampoo etc and you will find that it helps to stop impulse buying. It will also save time as you don't have to go down the aisles that you don't need anything in. I have been doing this for about a month and have saved at least $100.00 that has helped with the credit card debt
Contributed by Amanda

05 February 2015

Look Expensive for Less

We all want to look like a million dollars. The trouble is that most of us don’t have the bank balance to match our ideal image – and that image can be really important in the world of work, where being well-groomed and professionally presentable can be important to your prospects. Don’t despair. If you shop smart when buying your work wardrobe you can still look expensively dressed.

Let’s run through some of the hallmarks of an expensive wardrobe. The first is that outfits fit. This is where well-cut clothes have the edge. If you can’t afford designer clothes, opt for simpler cuts, like shift dresses, that are absolutely the right size all over. Classic clothes are often also conservative. Avoid plunging necklines or hemlines that are too high. Sleeves of some kind are often classier than bare arms, especially in the workplace.

Classic elegance also often relies on simplicity. Think of Coco Chanel’s ‘little black dress’. Frills and fussy details are best avoided, not least because they are most likely to go out of fashion faster. If you want to dress up an outfit, use accessories.

Expensive clothes always look as if they’ve just come out of the box. This is partly down to good quality materials (as well as clothes that are well cut and hang properly). You want to look well groomed, which means that you don’t want wrinkled clothes that always look in need of ironing. When considering a purchase, check the material for how much it creases. A good blend of fibres will give you the best of all worlds. It won’t look cheap, or like pure polyester, but it won’t crease like linen or silk.

Colour and pattern are also important things to consider. There are classic patterns and designs, but even these go in and out of style. On the other hand, you can’t really go wrong with plain fabrics – unless you pick the wrong colour. Neutral colours like grey, camel and blue are always safe and stylish. If you want to make more of a statement, keep it muted and well away from the extremes of the colour wheel, like bright reds, purple and oranges.

Lastly, nothing completes an outfit like a good pair of shoes. By the same token, nothing looks worse than a cheap pair. It’s worth not cutting back too much on shoes, for image purposes as well as comfort. Beware of shoes that are too shiny or have heels that are more suited to the catwalk than the workplace. A few other good accessories will always upgrade an outfit. A smart necklace, a good watch or a stylish scarf will upgrade your basic outfit and show that you have panache as well as subtle taste.

Looking expensive is about knowing what fits and suits you. It’s about being well-groomed and understated, without ever being boring. It’s about choosing appropriate styles, patterns and outfit accents for the occasion.

Get it right and well-chosen budget clothes can look a whole lot more expensive than they actually are.

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04 February 2015

From Spendthrift to Cheapskate in 4 Easy Stagesc

When someone is a new Cheapskate it can sometimes be overwhelming hearing about how other Cheapskates manage to live. Experienced Cheapskates tend to automatically live the Cheapskates way, saving money, time and energy has become an ingrained habit for them and they don't even think about how to stay within budget. Sometimes we forget the stages we went through on our journey to frugality:

S - Spendthrift Extraordinaire - buys name brands
1 - Fiscally Conscious - buys name brands on sale
2 - Bargain Hunter  - has switched to cheaper or generic brands
3 - Novice Cheapskate - makes own at home using commercial mixes
4 - Champion Cheapskate - makes own at home from scratch

Here are some examples of the differing stages and what they could involve:

Washing powder

S - buy brand name, use full scoop
1 - buy on special
2 - use 1/2 scoop
3 - change brands
4 - make Cheapskates Washing Powder


S - Buy brand name multi packs
1 - Buy brand name bulk pack and portion out
2 - Switch to generic multi-packs
3 - switch to generic bulk packs and portion out
4 - make your own (pita chips, crackers)

Takeaway Pizza

S - buy from the pizza parlour, have it delivered
1 - buy from the pizza parlour, pick it up
2 - buy from the pizza parlour with a discount voucher, pick it up
3 - switch to fresh pizzas from supermarket
4 - make them at home (see Penny Pinching Pan Pizza) and have 3 for the price of one bought

Nappy Wipes

S - buy brand name
1 - buy brand name on special
2 - buy brand name, cut in half
3 - switch to generic
4 - use wet face washers and a plastic bag

Spray and Wipe

S - buy brand name
1 - buy on special
2 - use less/dilute
3 - cheaper brand
4 - switch to Miracle Spray

Finding your perfect level of Cheapskateness is personal. What is ideal for one person or family may be extravagant to another and make another feel completely impoverished. Not everyone is at the same place on their journey to finding the Cheapskates way and not everyone will find their ideal level of Cheapskating at the same place.

As you travel the road to the Cheapskates way take the time to try each step and evaluate whether it works for you or not. There will be times when a level four change won't bother you at all and other times and situations when you won't be able to cope with anything other than sticking at Spendthrift Extraordinaire (mine is coffee; I have a brand I like that I buy on sale and I won't change it, so for coffee I'm at a level 1).

As you go from buying brand names without a thought, to checking the price and buying if on sale through to switching brands, cutting the amount you use and making things yourself from scratch you will find the level you are happy at. It won't be the same for everything either.  As I've confessed, when it comes to coffee I'm a dedicated spendthrift. And that's ok. I am more than happy to go to Champion level on something that's not as important to me (washing powder for instance) so I can stay at Spendthrift level with the things that are important to me.

Take each stage slowly and remember:  we are all at differing stages. This is your personal journey. Enjoy the trip.

03 February 2015


These are really just quesadillas made with a pizza filling, but the kids love them and they are delicious and just right for using up small amounts of leftovers, perfect for No Spending month. Use low fat cheese and a low salt tomato sauce and ham for a healthier version.


1 tortilla
2 tbsp tomato sauce
Grated cheese
Shredded ham

Spread tortilla with tomato sauce. Sprinkle half with ham and cheese. Fold over and heat in a sandwich press. Cut in half. Serves 1.

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