29 May 2015

Menu Plan May 31st - June 6th 2015

Wayne and I are on holiday for the next few weeks, but I still meal plan. The kids are still at home, so they need to be fed too. Sticking to the meal plan will stop them from ordering pizza or eating junk, and it really helps when we're travelling to know that there is something for tea each night.

We need to eat wherever we are so taking the meal plan with us and packing the ingredients to cook saves us a fortune in restaurant, cafe and roadhouse food. Homemade is good, even when home is a tent in the outback.

All these dinners can be made over a campfire if necessary. We love the roasts done in the camp oven over the coals. The meat has such a delicious smoky flavour and is melt in the mouth tender. I usually put the veggies in the pot around the meat about an hour before it's ready to cook, then use the juices in the bottom to make the gravy. Yum!

Sunday 31st: Roast Beef

Monday 1st: Honey Mustard Chicken

Tuesday 2nd: Sausage Casserole

Wednesday 3rd: Spanish Rice

Thursday 4th: MOO Pizza

Friday 5th: Lamb Hotpot

Saturday 6th: Soup & crumpets

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Saving Money on Groceries: Trim the Meat Budget by 30%

Are you spending way too much money on groceries? For many of us, the cost of meat is eating up a major portion of our grocery budget. The answer to this dilemma is simple – buy less meat! The trick to serving less meat is in the vegetables and other protein choices on the plate. Vegetarian options can stretch your grocery dollars while providing filling, healthy meals your  family will love and they don't have to be boring.

The next time you plan your menu for the week, instead of planning on enough meat to feed your family for seven days, substitute 2-3 vegetarian, or meatless, meals for your dinner. This one change can save you 30% to 50% on what you normally spend for meat.

If the thought of no meat shocks you don't despair! With the right recipes, you can even stretch bits of meat, like a small amount of left-over roast meat, to make a satisfying meal for everyone in your family.

Here are some meatless menu ideas your family and your wallet will love:

✴ Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup and your favourite salad.

✴ Quesadillas: Grilled tortillas with cheese, tomato and bits of taco meat if you like.

✴ Cheese enchiladas, Spanish rice, and refried or baked beans

✴ Mexican style baked beans, corn bread, and a fresh garden salad

✴ Chef salad with lots of different vegetables, boiled egg and cheeses. Add bits of ham, bacon or chicken to suit your tastes.

✴ Mini pizzas, home-made with a variety of grated cheeses, Italian spiced tomato sauce, and other toppings as desired. Some great ideas include fresh tomatoes, chives, walnuts and spinach. Let everyone design their own concoctions.

✴ Tortellini stuffed with cheese and mixed with herb and garlic flavoured feta cheese, chopped tomato, kidney beans and a bit of olive oil. Serve on a plate of baby spinach.

✴ Roasted vegetable casserole with potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cream of mushroom soup, carrots and cheese. Add some left-over chicken if desired.

✴ Fried rice with soy sauce, bits of egg, corn, and chopped carrots. Serve with spring rolls.

✴ For a fun change, fix omelettes for tea using eggs, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach. Bits of ham or bacon flavour it nicely while using only a small amount of meat. Put out a variety of condiments for everyone to choose from.

These menu ideas are just the beginning. Explore, experiment, and get your family involved in the process.

Make it fun! There's nothing like good old family time in the kitchen. Only your wallet will know that you're saving a lot of money in the process!

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28 May 2015

Cooking for One or Two

When you've had a family you become accustomed to cooking large meals. Most recipes are designed for four or more serves, perfect if you have a family or are feeding a large group.

But children growing up and leaving home, divorce or the death of a spouse are all reasons someone in the habit of cooking for two or more would suddenly need to learn how to adjust their cooking habits they've developed over the years to suit cooking for one or two.

The mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make cooking for one or two a challenge rather than a trial. Use this opportunity to try new and exciting cuisines. Perhaps one of the greatest things about cooking for one is the fact that it isn't quite as expensive as cooking for two and cooking for two is a lot cheaper than cooking for four or more. And this means that you might have a little more money in the grocery budget with which to plan and prepare your meals.

One thing you may want to keep in mind when cooking for one or two, if you prepare foods that are freezer friendly is that it may save more time (and in the end money) if you cook the full 4  - 6 servings that most recipes call for and freeze the leftovers in single serving portions for a later point in time. This leaves you with a freezer full of foods for those nights when the thought of cooking just seems beyond your capabilities. It also leaves you with doing the work once and enjoying the fruits of your efforts many times over. This is a great position to be in if you ask me.

No matter what situation placed you in the position of cooking for one or two, there is no reason that you shouldn't enjoy great food that is exciting and pleasant simply because you are dining alone. There is no harm in enjoying a fabulous meal with a nice drink and great music whether you are cooking for one, two or one hundred.

Remember you are what you eat and if you relegate yourself to boring meals that lack excitement and spice that is what you will become. However if you decide to reach out and try new and exciting dishes with every meal you prepare when cooking for one, it will show in the way you embrace life in other areas as well. While we should not live to eat, we should also not limit ourselves to eating to live. Enjoy the foods you prepare whether the portions are large or small in size.

If you do not want to invest heavily in cookbooks that relate to cooking for one, it is quite possible that your local public library will have a few from which you can find some excellent recipes tips and resources. While you are there be sure to check out their selection of exotic food cookbooks in order to spice things up a bit. You never know what treasures you may discover on the shelves or your local library. You may even find local resources on classes that centre on the idea of cooking for one. If the library proves to be a bust as far as resources goes, the Internet is full of recipes, tips, and hints for those who are cooking for one.

A Pantry Designed for Cooking for One or Two

Whether you are cooking or one or two or four or six or twelve, you need some basic pantry items. The only difference between pantries will be the quantities you have stored.  


SR Flour
Jarred pasta sauce
Tomato paste
Dried pasta
Stock cubes
Peanut butter
Canned beans (such as chickpeas, cannellinis, kidneys)
Dry breadcrumbs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Dried herbs and spices


Fresh herbs
Plain yogurt
Cheeses (such as cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella)
Condiments (such as Dijon mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, and soy sauce)
Jams (such as strawberry, raspberry, and apricot)
Salad greens (lettuce, cucumber, capsicum)


Bacon (divide into individual servings)
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I like to leave some whole and cut some into strips and others cubed for easy use.)
Minced beef (divided into 500g portions)
Frozen vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli florets, peas, beans and mixed vegetables)
Pizza dough (MOO or buy the small, fresh pizza bases and freeze them)
Frozen fruits (such as strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and mango)
Ice cream

So what can you make with your pantry stocks?

Frozen fruit + yogurt + milk = Fruit Smoothie

Pizza dough + pasta sauce + diced onion + herbs + grated cheese = Margarita pizza

Mince + pasta sauce + grated cheese + cooked spaghetti = Spag bol

Minced beef or chicken + onion + breadcrumbs + eggs + tomato sauce + herbs = Meatloaf

Chicken breasts + eggs + breadcrumbs + Parmesan + tomato sauce + mozzarella = Chicken Parmesan

Chicken breast + onion + mixed vegetables + cheese + milk + flour + pizza dough = Chicken and Vegetable Pie

Eggs + fresh herbs + cheese + salad =  Omelette with Green Salad

27 May 2015

It's never too soon to write a will

As each of our children turned 18 and became adults I took them to see our family solicitor and had them make a will. At the time they turned 18 they were all still living at home, studying and working part-time. They didn't own any property or have gazillions in a trust fund or even in savings. But they were adults and as such if they were to die they would leave an estate (minuscule, but their few belongings would become their estate) that would need to be dealt with. Without a will even a minuscule estate can cause huge headaches for those left behind.

As a responsible adult, potentially or with savings, superannuation, property and/or dependents it is imperative that you have a legally binding, properly written will. Even if you believe you have nothing to leave you need a will.

Without a will there is no guarantee that your wishes regarding your burial or estate, no matter what the value, will be carried out. If you own property or have investments, or have dependants, you need a will.

You can buy will kits from newsagents for around $20 if you'd like to DIY it. Follow the instructions to the letter and you will have a legally binding last will and testament. If you'd rather use a solicitor to write your will, a straightforward will should cost around $250 - $300. The more complicated your estate however the more complicated your will, and the higher the bill will be.

Unless you have drastic changes in your circumstances (you marry/divorce/have children/win lotto/start a business/buy property etc.) this is pretty much a one-off bill, or at least one you won't need to worry about again for a few years.

For the peace of mind you get knowing your wishes will be carried out and your family looked after that's not too much to pay.

26 May 2015

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

We have pumpkins a plenty! The vines have been prolific this year and we have a glut of these orange balls of sweetness. I love pumpkin so it's no hardship to me to see them lined up on the verandah, just waiting for me to cut into them and roast them or steam them.

But there is only so much pumpkin you can use for roasting and steaming, so I've had to find other ways to use it up. This recipe for pumpkin bread is spicy, moist and just plain delicious! It is a winner, we all love it and it will go into our regular sweet treats rotation. I hope you like it as much as we do.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

3 cups plain flour
1-½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon all-spice
¾ cup butter, softened
2-¼ cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 140 degrees Celsius (yes, it's low, this loaf cooks for a long time). In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, bicarbonate soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs.  Stir in pumpkin puree and vanilla extract.

Stir half the dry mixture into the wet mixture until just combined.

Stir in half of the buttermilk.

Add the rest of the dry mixture and then stir in the rest of the buttermilk. Stir gently until just combined.

Pour batter into two greased and floured loaf pans.

Bake for 1 hour and 10-20 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake and keep in mind that the bread will continue to bake as it cools down.

Let cool before removing from tin and slicing.

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25 May 2015

The MOO Gift Card System

I discovered this tip a few years ago and it saves me money every year and is fun too.

Step 1.  Buy a pack of blank (non-ruled) 'system cards'. These cards are usually used for paper filing systems, e.g. client information kept on each card for a small business, and filed in a specific card box. Cards are about $3.60 for a pack of 100s.

I like the 75mm x 125mm cards because I think they make a classy and neat sized gift card. So that makes the cost 0.036c per card.

Step 2.  Buy a sheet of 'theme specific' stickers available from most craft or $2 shops. I bought mine from 'Riot Arts and Crafts' for 99c per sheet and there is usually between 10 and 20 stickers per sheet. I have bought themes such as 'Christmas', where there are wreaths, gift boxes, Christmas trees etc..; 'Baby' where there are prams, teddy bears, dummies; 'Anniversary' including roses, champagne glasses, gift boxes; and 'Happy Birthday' including balloons, gift boxes, 'happy birthday' and 'best wishes' messages, streamers etc. That works out to be around 10c per sticker. Use 3 or 4 stickers on each card to decorate and the cost is about 40c per card. If you are more budget conscious you can use 2 stickers per card and bring the price down to around 20c.

Step 3.  Write personalised message in the card with a plain black or blue pen or jazz it up with any coloured textas or pens you have. You can go all out and buy a glitter pen ($2 each at Riot Arts and Crafts) and put additional glitter on the card also.

Step 4.  Place in 90mm x 145 self-seal envelope. It is a perfect and classy fit. These envelopes are around $4.85 per 100 so that makes it around 5c per envelope. Write the person's name on the front of the envelope and voila! you have a personalised gift card that is super fun to make, saves a packet and people love because it is home made with effort and love.

Total cost of each card is around 48c per card, instead of the usual $4.50 per bought card from a gift shop or supermarket. If you have say 10 extended family members and 5 friends to buy for each year that's a minimum saving of $60.30 per year on just Christmas and birthday cards alone ($7.20 instead of $67.50).

Contributed by Vanessa Hallum

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22 May 2015

Menu Plan 24th - 30th May 2015

We're still on holiday, as you can see by the easy meals this week. Easy for us to prepare over a camp fire and easy for the kids to prepare when they get home from work. Simple, easy meals like this help keep our grocery budget low.

Sunday: Roast chicken, baked potatoes and pumpkin, onion, peas, corn, carrots, gravy

Monday: Haystacks

Tuesday: Chilli, corn bread, salad

Wednesday: Meat pie, wedges, peas, gravy

Thursday: MOO pizza

Friday: Tomato & onion quiche, salad (lettuce, capsicum, cucumber, feta, olives, onion)

Saturday: Muffin Surprise

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How to Haggle for Success

You wouldn't think of buying a house or a new car without first negotiating with the seller to make sure you pay the lowest possible price, and you always make an offer on potential market and garage sale purchases. so why not use those haggling skills for other purchases you make?

Haggling for success takes a little skill and some confidence. Here are my top 5 haggling tips. They'll give you the skill and confidence to haggle for success.

1. Know what you want.  Research your item and the price at different stores. Use catalogues, flyers, the internet and don’t forget to ask other people where they get their best deals.

2. Know how much you are prepared to spend.  Set your budget and stick to it. Take into account delivery time and delivery charges.

3. Start with the question “What’s your best price?”  Don’t get tricked into telling them what you can afford or how much you want to pay first, let the salesperson give you a price.  With that, you have bargaining power.  Always be polite and friendly.

4. Be prepared to haggle.  Ask another question “How much for cash?” if you are paying cash. Wait for their response and then ask for Seniors discount if it applies, or if they would throw in delivery, installation, etc. Always be appreciative of a discount – a dollar in your pocket is better than a dollar in someone else’s!

5. Value Add.  Ask how much if you buy another item eg a lounge suite and a flat screen TV, a washing machine and a dryer, a TV and a DVD player, a dress and a pair of earrings, shoes and a handbag, etc.

Download the free How to Haggle tip sheet

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21 May 2015

A Mini Herb Garden Adds Colour and Flavour

Herbs add flavour and colour to cooking, turning even the simplest of dishes into gastronomic delights.

You can buy herbs at most supermarkets and greengrocers, either fresh or dried, but you’ll be paying top dollar for ingredients you can easily grow at home.

You don’t need garden beds; planted in small pots on a window sill you can harvest fresh herbs as you need them for only a few cents.

Follow this great advice from Cheapskater Marion Finlay and you’ll have a wonderful herb garden in no time.

Grow Your Own

Where I can I grow as many of the herbs myself in the garden, in planter boxes and just amongst my other pot plants. Herbs thrive when they are planted alongside other plants and by planting chamomile amongst them (the herb Dr.) it will help all the other herbs grow up bigger and better and you have free chamomile for tea.

Seed Collecting for Perpetual Growing

If the herbs go to flower I dry the flowers by tying the stalks with string to form a bunch and then hanging upside down inside the house. I dry them  for about 3 months. I then use the seeds for my new crop.

Preserving the Excess

If you have more rosemary or sage than you can use, preserve it by drying. Dried herbs last for approximately six months, giving you plenty of time to use them. Simply tie into bunches and hang in a cool, dark place until dry (in a cupboard is ideal). Then simply rub the sprigs between your hands to collect the dried leaves. Store in an air tight container and use as you would bought dried herbs.

Buy Direct for Freshness and a Smaller Carbon Footprint

If I have to buy herbs from the shops I always choose to buy from the local farmers markets as they are easily half the price compared to the bigger supermarkets. I
buy in bulk and freeze what I can, and then just use the herbs as needed. This prevents any wastage, allows you to buy in bulk even if cooking for one and ensures you always have herbs available no matter what time of the year.

To freeze..... 

Garlic: I peel and then break up into segments and then store in the freezer in a plastic container. I then dice or grate the segments as needed into my meals. I freeze ginger whole and then just grate it into my dishes as needed.

Ginger: can just be placed into the freezer even without a cover, however a small zip lock bag is preferable.

Leafy herbs:  such as coriander or mint you can make ice cubes filled with the leaves and then just use them as they are needed. I place a few leaves with just enough water to fill the ice cube trays and then just pop them out and leave to melt before using. They only take 20 minutes to melt or this can be sped up by placing the cubes in warm water.

20 May 2015

The Easiest Way to Save

The easiest way to save is to open a savings account.

The 10-10-80 rule suggests you save 10 per cent, give 10 per cent and live on the remaining 80 per cent of your wage. It is then a simple matter of having an amount deposited straight from your pay into the savings account. By not seeing it in your everyday account, you won't be tempted to spend it.

Look for a saving account where you deposit a set amount each month, they generally pay a higher interest. Make sure it can't be easily accessed - an online account where you need to wait 24 hour to access the funds is ideal. You can still access money in an emergency but you can't get it for anything frivolous. The wait will give you time to think before you spend too.

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18 May 2015

There are times I'm ashamed to be Australian and today is one of them

I'll give you fair warning now: this post is going to get political. If you don't want to know, stop reading right now. I am not concerned about whether you agree with the politics of the post or not and do not want your comments, if any, to be based on such. I am however concerned about your reaction to the humanity, the empathy, the sympathy and the charity questions raised by this post and if you have comments on those things, then you are welcome to leave them below.

Everyone who knows me knows I have an intense dislike of Facebook. Yes, we have a Facebook page for Cheapskates, but only because I was just plain tired of saying "no" to everyone who wanted it.  And you'll all know that I take most of the things that show up on Facebook with a grain of salt and usually ignore them. But I'm only human, and every now and then something will pop up and I will be curious enough to read more.

This afternoon while I was having a cup of tea is no exception. I decided to quickly check FB and as I was scrolling down "Wounded sapper dumped by army and frustrated by bureaucrats" caught my eye and my curiosity and I clicked over.

I watched the video clip and read the report.

And right now I am feeling ill, to the point of throwing up, at the treatment of this man who was so severely wounded in the defence not just of his country, but of me, my husband, our children and every other Australian.

You can read the story and watch the video here (and ignore the political spiel, I did)

I understand that as a soldier Sergeant Lyddiard was doing the job he chose, was trained for and that he was being paid to do. But he is also a hero, and I don't use that term lightly.

How do I know he's a hero? He voluntarily chose to enlist in the Australian Army and to put the protection of his fellow Australians ahead of his own safety. He voluntarily chose to enlist in the Australian Army and sacrifice time with his family to defend his country and his fellow Australians.

How many Australians are heroes? Not that many going by the size of our defence force. There are far too many who would rather sit at home, enjoying the freedom that Michael Lyddiard and his fellow soldiers, sailors and air force personnel give us.

What disgusts me most is his (and obviously every other injured defence force personnel's) treatment by the Defence Forces and the Australian Government and, by default, me and you.

I challenge the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews and the Chief of Defence Forces Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin to get their backsides out of their padded chairs, move away from their desks and help Sgt. Lyddiard and every other injured or disabled serviceman or servicewoman to live the life they deserve - one where they don't have to beg for a pair of spectacles or they can't get the massage therapy they need because it's not performed by a physiotherapist or they can't support their families because they don't have access to a pension or the superannuation they deserve.

I suggest that every politician in this country have a good, hard, long think about their pensions because I'll tell you now if I had any control over it they would not retire on anything other than the same pension you and I will, and they'd be waiting for official pension age to receive said pension, subject to the same means testing you and I are subject to.

And every cent saved would be used to ensure these soldiers, sailors and air force heroes don't have to suffer the contempt they are currently being treated with.

We who aren't brave enough to sacrifice our lives for others need these heroes and we should hold them high and treat them with the utmost respect and honour, ensuring they never, ever want for something as basic as medical treatment or have to beg for a pension or the superannuation they are entitled too.

In fact I'd rather see politicians beg for a pension; there have been very few politicians ever, if any, in this country that could be called heroes.

Here's the link to the video

Here's the contact form for Minister of Defence Kevin Andrews 

Here's the email address for Senator Michael Ronaldson, the Minister for Veterans Affairs: Senator.Ronaldson@aph.gov.au

Feel free to let them know if you're as disgusted, disillusioned and ashamed of yourself, him, our Government and the ADF as I am at this appalling lack of respect and compassion for a fellow human being.

Unusual Embellishments Make Scrapbooking Affordable

I love scrapbooking my family's photos but unfortunately it can get very expensive. Too easy to splurge on all the latest papers/embellishments and tools to create my masterpieces so I started to look for some alternatives. I've found it's amazing what you can find to recycle and use in your scrapbooking.

My children all had wall calendars last year (bought after Christmas when they were 1/2 price) so instead of throwing them when the year was over I went through and cut out the names of the months, any pictures I could use and any quotes listed on the picture pages. My daughter's fairy calendar alone gave me 56 cut outs that I can use.

I've also started keeping the cardboard tags off clothes when they're licensed or have an interesting picture on them. e.g. each garment has price tags etc but many also have brand name or licensed tags with them. I simply remove them off the plastic fastener and as they already have a hole punched in them they make perfect page accents.

For paper, at $1 per page (at least) it can get exxy, but now I keep wrapping paper from any gifts and cut to suit my layout.

From recycling, I get a great mix of patterned and plain paper. If I don't have any in the print/colour I want I simply pick up a sheet from the cheap shop for 50 cents and this gives me 3-4 pages worth.

I'm not sure of exact savings in monetary terms - it really depends on how many layouts are done in a year and how many embellishments are used on the pages. There are so many ways to save money without compromising my passion for scrapbooking and I just wanted to share some of them.
Contributed by Deanne

15 May 2015

Price Matching Strategies

Knowledge about store price matching policies and strategies can save you hundreds of dollars a year on just about everything you buy from groceries to shoes to DVDs to washing machines and even mobile phones.

Price matching is a tactic stores employ where one store matches (or sometimes even beats) an advertised price offered by a competing retailer.

Price matching is typically offered by major chain stores and appliance stores although you'll find it all over the retail world when you look for it. If you're not sure if the store you are shopping in has a price matching policy, ask.

To take advantage of this easy way of saving money all the time you need to be aware of the price of your items across all the stores you shop at. You use a price book for groceries, so why not add some pages for other things you buy like printer cartridges, skin care, CDs etc.

Use your price book to track prices and the timing of sales so you'll always be buying at the lowest possible price - for everything!

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Menu Plan - May 17 - 23 2015

This is what we'll be eating for the next week.

We have a roast every Sunday. It's about the only thing I'm traditional about when it comes to meals. The lamb roast was bought when lamb was on sale at Tasman Meats earlier this year. At the time I bought 12, enough for a year of lamb roasts for my family.  We love roast lamb, especially when I prepare it Greek-style, but it is far too expensive to get just one meal out of it.

When we have roast lamb I cut it all off the bone as I'm serving on Sunday night. Then I portion out enough meat for another roast dinner, This gets packed into a Tupperware container, covered in gravy and frozen for a later meal. Next I put 3 - 4 slices into a container and this is used to make French Shepherd's Pie. You only need a very small amount of meat to make this delicious pie, so it is very economical. Any meat that is left is is chopped up into small chunks, mixed into a thick gravy and used as pie filling. The bone goes into the freezer to make stock for soup, cooking rice or pasta, making gravy and so on.

One $16 - $18 leg of lamb provides at least five meals for my family of five, bringing the cost of the meat component of each meal down to between $3 - $4 a meal.

Sunday 17th: Greek-style Roast Lamb, Rosemary and Garlic baked vegetables (potato, pumpkin, onion, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini), gravy

Monday 18th: Tuna Surprise, salad (lettuce, capsicum, cucumber, onion, semi-dried tomatoes)

Tuesday 19th: Vegetable pasta bake, salad

Wednesday 20th: Stuffed drumsticks, scalloped potato, corn, carrot, beans

Thursday 21st: MOO pizza

Friday 22nd: Meatloaf, mashed potato, cauliflower with cheese sauces, carrots, beans, onion gravy

Saturday 23rd: Tacos:

14 May 2015

Corned Beef Hash

When I was a little girl my mother would make a couple of different corned beef dishes and I loved them. This is one of those dishes, for a pretty basic corned beef hash; the other is Corned Beef Pie in the Recipe File.

All the recipes and suggestions for cooking corned beef that came in this last week has put corned beef at the front of my mind. I don't have it on the meal plan anytime soon, but I may just have to do a little swapping and slot it in just so we can have this oh-so-easy but very delicious way to use leftovers - Corned Beef Hash.

So here is my Corned Beef Hash recipe. You can use tinned corned beef, making it a great camping recipe, or leftover corned beef, making it a great recipe to stretch just a little leftover meat.

Corned Beef Hash

2 cups leftover cooked corned beef (or 1 tin of corned beef)
4 large potatoes
Grated cheese

Peel and cook the potatoes until tender. Drain and mash with a little butter and milk but don't make them too soft, they need to be quite firm.

Dice the corned beef and place it in an oiled 20cm casserole dish. Spread the mashed potato over the top. Sprinkle the potato with grated cheese, being generous so there is a good layer of cheese.

Bake for around 20 - 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden and the dish is heated through.

Serve with baked beans and toast, or salad, or steamed vegetables.

Leftovers can be frozen.

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13 May 2015

Get Rid of all Your Debts, then You can Relax

Regardless of what the financial gurus tell you, when you have debt you own nothing. Even a small debt can be the undoing of the most wealthy when it is ignored, forgotten or just plain owed.

Make it your top priority to get out of debt, and as fast as you can, if not faster. Use the Payment Push to work out your repayments then, even if it means you live on baked beans and weak black tea for a month, so  be it. Tidy up your house and yard, selling anything you don't need, want or aren't using. Put the funds towards the debt. Work overtime and put the funds towards the debt. Stop all absolutely unnecessary spending and put the funds towards the debt.

If you have a lot of debt, make it a twice yearly habit to spend one month living on bare bones and throwing every cent you can towards your debt. The rest of the year live as frugally as you can, paying down the debt regularly.

This isn't your long-term lifestyle. It is a short-term sacrifice so you can sit back and enjoy the rest of your life debt free, cashed up and laughing - probably at everyone who mocked your efforts while you were becoming debt free!

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12 May 2015

5 Creative Ways to Use Powdered Milk in Your Kitchen

Powdered milk in 2015 is so much better than it was when I was a child. It has a better flavour and if you choose an instant powdered milk it will dissolve easily and quickly even in cold water.

I use powdered milk (the Aldi powdered milk is excellent value) in baking, cheese and white sauces, instant custards, to make egg or stirred custard, in cakes, biscuits, slices, pancakes and breads and when we are camping for drinking, cereals and tea and coffee.

I always have powdered milk in the pantry and the pantry stockpile. It's a very handy pantry ingredient to have on hand.

Here are five creative ways you and use powdered milk in your kitchen:

1.  Hide it in a milk jug

If you run out of milk make up a bottle of  powdered milk. The general ratio is 1 cup of powder to 900ml water, although I just measure 1 litre of water to the cup of milk powder. If you have a little fresh milk still in the bottle, make up the powdered milk and add it to the fresh. Shake well, chill and it will be hard to tell the difference.

2.  Use as a fresh milk substitute in baking

Any recipe that calls for milk can EASILY use powdered milk instead.  Any brand or type of milk will work just fine, but I do use the Aldi instant powdered full cream milk.  Make sure you read the making up instructions so you use the right amount of powder to water for the recipe. You don't need to mix the milk and water first. Just add the powder to your dry ingredients and the necessary amount of water to your wet ingredients.  Works like a charm and saves the fresh milk for cereal and drinking.

3.  MOO buttermilk

To make a simple buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk.  Stir and let stand for about 1 minute.  To make 1 cup of milk using milk powder stir 1/4 cup milk powder into 1 cup cold water, then add the lemon juice, stir and let it sit to curdle.

4.  MOO evaporated milk

Evaporated milk has a relatively short shelf life and is expensive - one 290ml can is the price of three litres of fresh milk, so if you can just use your regular powdered milk instead of having to store this as well, it can be a good space and cost-savings.  To make evaporated milk mix 1-1/2 cups of water with a heaping 1/2 cup of instant milk powder.  Blend very well in a blender.  This will be equivalent to about a 375ml can.

5.  MOO sweetened condensed milk

This is probably my all-time favourite powdered milk trick.  Sweetened condensed milk can be pricey but it is oh so delicious in many of our favourite desserts and caramels.  To make your own similar to a can of sweetened condensed milk, simply mix 1/2 cup hot water, 1 cup powdered milk, 1 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons melted butter very well in a blender.  The mixture will thicken to the commercial condensed milk equivalent as it cools.

11 May 2015

Store and Organise Your Precious Photos

I organise my photos by month, in this file format for ease of sorting 'YEAR MONTH'. Any special events (weddings, birthdays, concerts etc.) have their own folder. For example I would have a '201401' folder for general January images, and a '201401 Big Day Out' folder for photos of the event. I also back up all my photos to Flickr. Flickr offer free 1TB accounts and allow you to tag photos, which is great because I can tag them with multiple tags and sort by tags: parties, pets, weddings, peoples' names, locations, dates etc. and then sort them that way. I also made my own tag 'POOL ROOM' which is reserved for those perfect photos - good enough to go "straight to the pool room". It takes a few minutes to tag them all, but is well worth it. You can pay to have a larger upload limit, which I do once every few months - I set aside a few hours spread over the month to upload like a fiend. I am finally on top of all my photos, and can easily upload month by month now. Best of all I can access my photos from any computer, can upload from any computer and never have to worry about losing the originals in a fire, or having Facebook own my photos to use as they want without permission. Check it out www.flickr.com.
Contributed by Sandi Darling

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09 May 2015

Mother's Day Gift Ideas Day 5: Prettily Packaged Soaps

I love good soap. A pretty handmade soap. I love the scents, and the often spend time in my dressing table or bedside drawers before I use them. I even keep some in the linen cupboard, tucked in amongst the towels and sheets to keep them smelling sweet.

So if I were to receive a very prettily packaged bundle of lovely soaps I would be thrilled.

You can get handmade soaps from craft shops, pharmacies, gift shops  - my local post office even keeps them. They run from $1.95 a cake up depending on where you buy them they can be expensive so be aware. This week Aldi have Dove soap for $1 a bar. This makes a nice gift too.

Being a block soap is very easy to package up nicely.

Here are two ways pretty packaging can make a $1 bar of soap look like it cost a whole lot more.

Wrapping paper, ribbon and a bit of bling

You will need:
1 bar soap (I use Dove bought for $1 or less per cake, it smells nice and wraps nicely in the box)
Wrapping paper
Co-ordinating or matching ribbon
A dazzling buckle*
Double-sided sticky tape

Step 1. Wrap the bar of soap in the wrapping paper, using the double-sided tape to secure.

Step 2. Slide the end of the ribbon through the buckle. Wrap the ribbon around the length of the soap, positioning the buckle in the centre of the top. Secure underneath with double-sided tape.

Step 3. Use a glue dot to hold the buckle in place if  necessary.

(This packaging idea comes from The Bluebirds are Nesting,  Annabel has beautiful craft ideas on her blog, please visit to check them out).

A stack of soaps

You will need:
3 rectangular or square bars of soap - all the same size. You can have them all the same colour or a mix'n'match set.
Clear cellophane
Wrapping paper
Baker's twine to coordinate with your wrapping paper
A button
Cardstock (for printing the sentiment - or a pre-made embellishment)
Glue stick or glue tabs
Clear sticky tape
Double-sided tape

Step 1. Wrap the individual soaps in cellophane, using clear sticky tape to secure. Stack.

Step 2. Cut a 4cm strip of wrapping paper to fit around the stack. Secure underneath with double-sided tape.

Step 3. Wrap the stack with the baker's twine four times, securing underneath in a knot.

Step 4. Print the sentiment onto cardstock. Trim and attach to the top of the stack with double-sided tape at an angle. Stick the button to the sentiment to finish.

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08 May 2015

Menu Plan 10th - 16th May 2015

Since the ACA story aired, I've had a lot of emails asking for my meal plan. I always post my monthly meal plan to the Member's Centre and include it in the Journal each month so Cheapskates Club members can download it if they wish to.

But it seems some of you want to see it here to so I'll be posting a week at a time on a Friday morning from now on.

A warning: we do not eat fancy food. We do eat food with lots of flavour and textures and we do eat lots of vegetables with our meals. So if you want gourmet meals, are not fond of interesting flavours or textures and don't like vegetables you'll need to modify my meal plan considerably to suit your tastes.

This meal plan fits within my $320 a month grocery budget.

Sunday 10th: Roast chicken with stuffing, baked potato, pumpkin, onion, beans, broccoli and carrot with cheese sauce, gravy

Monday 11th: Mexican Meatballs over Spanish Rice, green salad (lettuce, capsicum, cucumber, onion, crumbled feta)

Tuesday 12th: Spaghetti Bolognaise, salad (lettuce, tomato, onion, capsicum, crumbled feta), garlic rolls

Wednesday 13th: Crumbed fish fillets, MOO wedges with sweet chili sour cream, coleslaw (shredded cabbage, grated onion, grated carrot, sliced celery)

Thursday 14th: MOO Pizza (tomato sauce, grated cheese, sliced mushrooms, salami, olives, pineapple, jalapenos)

Friday 15th: Veggie Burgers, MOO wedges, sweet chili sour cream

Saturday 16th: Toasted sandwiches (ham, chicken, tomato, cheese, onion, pesto)

This is flexible. If you've been following the newsletter you'll know that this week's meal plan has been completely ignored. All good intentions went out the window along with our schedules and plans for the week. It's not a disaster, we just ate different things. What we didn't eat will be carried over to another month.

Here's hoping this week isn't as hectic!

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