31 July 2015

Meal Plan 2nd - 7th August 2015

We're still eating from the freezer and it is slowly, slowly emptying. It is going to take more than a month though.

I'm out of mince so the lasagne will be vegetarian. We like this lasagne, it's full of layers of delicious veggies between layers of thick, rich tomato sauce. I think it has to be one of the best ways to eat vegetables ever.

I don't have a specific recipe, just layers potato, onion, zucchini, sweet potato, pumpkin, silverbeet or spinach (whichever I have), capsicum, egg plant - you get the idea. Use whatever veggies you have in the fridge. Slice them thinly so they cook quickly and evenly, mandolin makes this easy if you have one. I make a tomato sauce using diced tomatoes, onion, basil and garlic and let it cook until it is thick and rich.

Layer it all in a lasagne dish, starting with tomato sauce, vegetables, pasta, sauce, vegetables, pasta until I run out of ingredients, finishing with a pasta layer. Top the lot with a white sauce and grated cheese and bake it for 30 - 40 minutes until the veggies are soft and the sauce is bubbling.

We have this with green salad one and garlic or herb toast.

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Enchilaldas

Tuesday: Vegetable Lasagne

Wednesday: Tomato & Onion Pie

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Zucchini Slice

Saturday: Hamburgers

30 July 2015


Cold winter nights need warm puddings and this one hits the spot. Serve it with a scoop of ice-cream or a dollop of whipped cream to drizzle over the delicious sponge and rich gooey sauce  and let it warm the cockles of your soul. I included this recipe in this week's newsletter and made it for dessert tonight as a treat. Needless to say there are no leftovers!

This pudding serves 4 hearty appetites or 6 normal appetites for a grand total of $1.46 making it between 36c and 24c a serve.

Now that's bargain comfort food!

Brazilian Chocolate Pudding

¾ cup sugar 12c
1 tablespoon cocoa 10c
1 cup S.R. flour 20c
1 teaspoon vanilla essence 10c
2 tablespoons butter 50c
½ cup milk 12c

¾ cup sugar 12c
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa 10c
1 mug strong coffee 10c

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 4 cup casserole dish. Mix sugar, cocoa and S.R. flour. Melt butter, add milk and vanilla. Combine and beat for 2 minutes - the mixture will be thick. Place into greased casserole dish and sprinkle with topping of sugar and cocoa. Pour coffee over and bake 30 – 40 minutes until cake is cooked through.

I buy my flour, sugar, milk and butter from Aldi. I buy generic cocoa from Woolworths. I buy Nescafe in 500g tins on sale. I MOO vanilla essence using vodka from Aldi and vanilla beans bought online.

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29 July 2015

Scalloped Potatoes, and they're not $6.67 per kilo!

This is not the post I had planned for today, that one can wait, this one can't.

Yet again we're being convinced that buying our meals ready-made from the supermarket is better, easier, cheaper and more convenient, that we can't cook for ourselves and it's just not true. Convenience is not always better, especially in this case. It is expensive, tasteless and horrible.

As I was trawling the catalogues last night, looking for the specials, I noticed at the bottom of the Coles catalogue they had 600g scalloped potato (frozen) for $4, save $1. That equates to $6.67 a kilo for sliced potato, onion and a little cream. Ouch!

We love scalloped potato, I make it often and it doesn't cost anywhere near $6.67.

Don't think for one minute that making a dish of scalloped potato is hard or time consuming because it isn't. The time is in the cooking, which you'll have with a frozen convenience meal anyway. And while it's cooking you can be setting the table and enjoying your family's company, perhaps talking about how easy it was to save $4.10!

Here's my scalloped potato recipe with a price breakdown.

Our Favourite Potato Bake

1kg potatoes, washed, peeled and thinly sliced - $1
1 large onion, thinly sliced - 15c
300ml MOO evaporated milk* - 30c
1 pkt French Onion soup mix - 75c
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup grated tasty cheese - 30c

Grease a large casserole or baking dish well. Layer the potato and onion, ending with a potato layer. Mix the evaporated milk and the soup mix well (I usually shake it a drink shaker) and pour over the potato and onion. Mix the grated cheese and the breadcrumbs together and sprinkle evenly over the top of the potato. Cover with foil and bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and cook a further 10 minutes until the cheese and crumbs are golden brown and the potato is cooked.

Total cost $2.50, saving:$4.17  - and that's being generous with the cost per kilo for potatoes.

MOO Evaporated Milk

2/3 cup milk powder
1 cup cold water

Dissolve milk powder in cold water. This recipe makes the equivalent of one can of evaporated milk.

Light evaporated milk: Substitute skim milk powder for full cream for a lower fat version.

If you don't want to use evaporated milk, use 600ml of cream. This will increase the cost by 90 cents, making the total dish $3.40.

I pay no more than 80c per kilo for potatoes and that's when I simply cannot get them anywhere any cheaper. At that price I only buy enough to last a week and I keep looking for cheaper spuds. When I find them cheaper I stock up - I'll buy 20 kilos at a time and store them in hessian bags in the bottom of the pantry where they stay dark and cool. Twenty kilos lasts us about two months.

I MOO evaporated milk, using Aldi milk powder.

French Onion soup mix is also MOOed. For the costing of this recipe I used the price of a generic bought soup mix from the supermarket as not everyone MOOs.

Breadcrumbs are MOOed from leftover bread crusts, dried and then processed into crumbs.

I buy tasty cheese in 1 kilo blocks from Aldi for $6 and grate or slice it as it is needed.

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27 July 2015

The Piglet

This is the most decadent slice I've ever had. We had it while we were on holidays, just one slice bought from a cake shop in a country town and shared between us. What a mistake that was! We both wanted more, more, more!

It's a simple enough slice: biscuit base, caramel filling, raspberry marshmallow topping.

Here's my version of The Piglet

1 cup SR flour
1 cup coconust
1/2 cup brown sugar
125g butter, melted

Line a slice tray with baking paper. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Combine all the ingredients together then press firmly into the slice tray. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until golden brown. The base will still be soft as it comes out of the oven, but will firm up as it cools. Cool in tin.

1 can condensed milk (or MOO equivalent)
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp butter

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over a medium heat until the butter and syrup have melted into the condensed milk. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Turn heat down and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until caramel is formed - about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over base straight away. Smooth and set aside to cool.

1 pkt (200g) pink marshmallows OR 1 quantity MOO marshmallow
1 tsp butter

Place marshmallows and butter in a large heat proof bowl. Microwave on HIGH in 1 minute bursts, stirring between, until marshmallows and butter have melted and combined. Remove from microwave and pour over slice immediately - don't dawdle or the marshmallow will start to set. Cover slice with baking paper and set aside for marshmallow to set. Dust the top with icing sugar. Cut into fingers to serve.

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It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 27

Christmas in July - Things I've Learned From The Past

• Start actually making gifts a bit earlier, especially those things that kids wants to help with. I once forgot to plan around our business Christmas rush, and things got a bit hectic.

• Pick a theme for the kids gifts. One year the themes were cooking for Hannah, building for Tom and photography for AJ and that worked so well! Extended family who wished to give gifts had a general theme to work around that was based on the kids' likes, and we were able to do some really fun stuff (actual functional cooking tools for Hannah, real working tools for Tom, just like Dad's and books, film, camera case etc. for AJ).

• Start working with your kids now on handmade gifts for their siblings, grandparents and cousins.

• Simplify the meals even more. Too much time was spent cooking, and that takes a lot out of the day. Plan menus early, and make ahead as much as possible. If you have a freezer, you can make your puddings and cakes in October and November and freeze them. They will still mature and will be fresh and delicious for Christmas.

• If you are planning on a party this year, start now to plan the menu, guest list, pick a date (if you do it now, you'll be sure to get your guests). If you want a particular theme, start to choose the decorations etc. Budget for the cost - save $2 a week towards the nibblys, drinks etc. Start to buy drinks that will keep until Christmas if you have the room to store them but don't be tempted to dip into the store before Christmas.

Spend the next few months contemplating and jotting notes, but don't start organizing and planning in earnest until September. By then, the shops will have their Christmas things coming in, and as you've already thought out what you're doing, you'll be ready to tackle Christmas. Without the stress!

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 26

Create a No-fail Homemade Gift Giving Plan

Homemade gifts are special.  Receiving a gift that has been made by the giver, knowing that they have put time and effort into making something just for you is priceless.  Occasionally though, those homemade gifts are not quite the success they are intended to be.

So what’s the secret of successful homemade gifts?

There are a couple of important things to remember. The first rule is that, as with any gift, the more it taps into the receiver’s interests and passions, the better.

The second is that homemade gifts shouldn’t be second rate products that are cobbled together inexpertly – so make sure you have the skills or a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

On this basis, the best place to start is to decide what you can make that will also be a good quality gift. Ideally it needs to be well made, useful, beautiful or perhaps a memorable keepsake in some other way. There are lots of things that you can make at home without special skills or craft equipment, but over-ambitiousness and poor workmanship can be the ruin of your gift giving plan.

If you’re going to try to save money by making homemade gifts, there are two strategies you’ll have to adopt. The first is to make sure it’s not going to cost you more than it would to buy an equivalent item at retail prices. The second is to make sure you have enough time to make things. The rule of thumb is that homemade gifts can turn out to be a bit more complicated and time-consuming than you may have anticipated.

Don't wait until the week before Christmas to start that hand-quilted knee rug for Granny, unless you have absolutely nothing else to do and are prepared to stay up 24 hours a day until Christmas Day to get it done.

I like to allow at least twice the amount of time I think a project will take. This leaves room for mistakes and repeat steps and still gives plenty of time to take things slowly and get them done properly.

To minimize expensive setup costs, it makes sense to specialize, and make several of the same (or similar) things. You’ll save by making half a dozen decoupage boxes, rather than having to shell out on the tools and materials needed for a variety of different crafts.

When it comes to the people for whom your gifts are intended, ask yourself whether whatever it is you are making is really their thing. Just because you love your chosen hobby or craft, is it what they really want? Some of us just aren’t handmade or rustic gift kind of people.

That doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a conventional present. It does mean that you need to think it through. Someone who’ll blanch with horror when they open their gift to find a hand-knitted beanie may go crazy for home-made condiments or some mouth-watering, authentic gourmet snacks.

Sometimes the pleasure of a homemade gift is the creative idea behind it, rather than the master craftsmanship that you’re no doubt aiming for. Only you can come up with those creative ideas that make gifts personal and memorable for the recipient. A really humorous gift that is ideal for the receiver’s lifestyle and personality can be a hit because of the concept and the thought you’ve put into it – but that still doesn’t mean you can skimp on quality.

So don’t get carried away and remember that a successful homemade gift giving plan means making a bunch of smart decisions. Get it right and you’ll have the satisfaction of creating your gifts and of seeing the pleasure that your handiwork gives to others.

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 25

No Cost Gifts

Why not try a completely cost free Christmas gifts for friends? Recently I had a birthday which inspired this idea. I had instructed my friends to not give me any gifts etc. as I wanted them to save their money. Several friends took me very literally and gave me wonderful gifts of items they owned and I had admired or appreciated but they no longer had a need for: a great cook book; a serving dish and a stunning shawl were all gifts that I know I will treasure. It's not re-gifting as these items had all been used by my friends and admired by me. Our book club have decided to use this simple concept for Christmas this year. It is exciting, practical and environmentally friendly.
Contributed by Evelyn Chapman 

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26 July 2015

The Week that was

Some of the flowers from the beautiful bouquet Wayne surprised me with this week

This week has been busy with a capital B!

Lots of frugal tasks accomplished, some started and still in progress and others on the drawing board. The beautiful day last Sunday meant I could nag gently ask the boys to spread another layer of mulch and compost in the front garden beds for me.

I also took cuttings of the lavender to strike new plants. I love this lavender, the fragrance is beautiful, so if I can strike even one more plant I'll be so happy.

Transferred the small amounts of moisturiser and toner left in the bottom of the bottles that I couldn't get out easily into the new bottles. Now I can use every drop.

Kept the fire stoked and the ducted heating off. House has been warm, most noticeably in the early mornings.

Shopped around for firewood. We haven't been wood cutting this year so we've been buying it. Found a tonne delivered for a price Wayne was happy to pay. The boys moved it all around to the woodpile for me then raked the small bits off the grass and put them into a kindling pile.

Closed the blinds and curtains as soon as the temperature started to drop in the afternoons and kept them closed a little longer in the mornings to keep the warmth in.

Then on the couple of beautifully sunny days I opened the drapes on the  north facing windows right up and let the sun stream in. It was so warm we were able to let the fire burn down. I put the clothes horses in front of the windows to dry the towels and bath mats.

Accepted a petrol discount voucher from Mum and used it to get petrol for $119.4c yesterday. I haven't been shopping for 7 weeks so I didn't have any vouchers.

Opened some new soaps and put them through the linen cupboard and the shelves in my wardrobe to harden before using. They'll also freshen the cupboards and help to keep any bugs that dare to try invade away.

Rearranged some droopy flowers into a smaller vase to get another few days of prettiness out of them.

Spent an hour with my garden book planning the spring garden and working out the sowing and planting schedule for spring.

Sorted my card supplies and tidied them up then made some Christmas cards and a few gift cards to match the Christmas themed wrapping paper for this year. Started getting ready for next week's card making afternoon :)

Stocked up on shampoo for 50 cents/500ml bottle on Thursday (on clearance at Coles). Eighteen bottles is enough for two years of shampoo for my family, and all for the grand total of $9.00.

12 bottles of 50 cent shampoo and 4 bottle of half-price bodywash ready to add to the stockpile. 6 bottles of shampoo have been put in the bathroom cupboards

Stocked up on Shapes and CCs for the Christmas hamper and stockings, both on half-price sale at Woolworths this week. They are safely stashed in the box in my wardrobe until needed in December.

Ate out of the freezer all week. The freezer challenge is going well and my freezer stocks are dwindling, slowly, down. It will be at least another 4 - 5 weeks before the freezer is empty enough to even think about re-stocking but by then I'll be in Christmas and holiday planning mode.

The freezer is still full,even with the freezer challenge. Lots of veggies, bread, fruit, chicken and roasts. No mince though!

Printed the meal plan for the rest of the year out and stuck it on the fridge. No need for anyone to ask what's for dinner now, but I know they will :)

Picked mandarins, oranges, grapefruit and lemons off our trees. Made grapefruit and orange and lemon marmalade and lemon butter and froze the lemon zest. The mandarins are beautiful and taste so much better than what I've been buying.

Mended a pair of shorts, a pair of Wayne's jeans and sewed buttons back onto a couple of shirts and one of my caridgans. No more mending pile!

Made some no-bake slices for snacks. No oven has meant no baking. Normally not a problem and I'm sure it is purely psychological but since I've not been able to bake everyone has been craving biscuits and cakes and muffins!

Continued to use up the UHT milk left over from our holiday instead of buying fresh milk.

Saved shower water and the "cold" hot water from the kitchen to water the plants and clean the floors.

Cut down two bathmats that had gone to holes to make pot holders for the kitchen.

My oven was fixed yesterday and I've been baking up a storm! The new fan is so fast,I had no idea the old one was so slow. Baking time has been slashed by 5 - 10 minutes on the things I made yesterday, and that has to mean a power saving.

Experimented to create a slice we had while we were away.It was so delicious, totally not good for us in any way, but so good. Just thinking about it starts us drooling. Everyone has given it the thumbs up so I'll get the recipe typed up and take some photos and post it over the weekend.

The Piglet - a treat we had while we were away. I've never had one before so I created my version of the slice we enjoyed. Thomas said it will be hard, but he'll force himself to eat it so no one else has to suffer the joy agony of The Piglet.

Best of all, apart from picking up the grocery specials on Wednesday morning as I took Hannah to work and Thursday shopping with Mum, I've stayed home, saving on fuel, my time and money.

That's about it, or at least all I can remember. Living frugally is a habit so lots of the things we do are automatic but I'd hate to see how much our budget would blow out if we didn't do them.

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24 July 2015

Cath's Meal Plan 26th July - 1st August

Tom tells me this is a great week for meals, he's given it a 10/10!

Joanne commented a while back about how often we have roast lamb and roast beef and she queried how they could possibly fit into my $320 a month grocery budget.

Well firstly I only ever buy legs of lamb or roasting beef (or any meat really) on sale. That means when legs of lamb are $6.99/kg or less I stock up. I've been known to buy 12 at time, bring them home, wrap them and put them in the freezer.

Secondly a leg of lamb gives me at least 12 serves. That''s two roast dinners and two serves to use in French Shepherds pie or wraps or a sweet lamb curry. The bone is used to make soup and/or stock.

On Sunday when Wayne is carving the roast, he'll slice it all up. Then I'll dish up five serves, put five serves into a Tupperware container and two serves into a smaller container. When I make the gravy I'll make a double quantity, use half on our dinner and pour the other half over the five serves of lamb in the Tupperware container. The secret to doing this is to make sure all the lamb is covered in the gravy. Then I seal the container and pop it into the freezer.

Next time roast lamb is on the menu, the meat just needs to be thawed and reheated. I don't need to have the oven or the barbecue on for a couple of hours to cook a leg, it is already cooked.

The average leg of lamb I buy is around two kilos and costs between $13 - $15 and I get six meals for my family of five from one leg: two roast dinners, one other dinner and three soup meals. That brings the average cost per meal to between $2.32 and $2.50.

And that is how we can enjoy our roast lamb dinner once a month on my $320 a month grocery budget.

Sunday: Roast lamb, baked veggies, gravy

Monday: Hannah’s choice (birthday dinner - but it will include cake and ice cream!)

Tuesday: Spinach & ricotta cannelloni in tomato sauce, salad

Wednesday: Stuffed drumsticks, baked potato, pumpkin, broccoli, corn

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Sausage casserole, sweet potato mash, greens

Saturday: Pumpkin soup, toasted muffins

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It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 24

Now's the Time to Plan your Summer Holiday

In Australia January is traditionally the month most of us take our annual holiday. Some of us head to the beach, some of us head to the bush, some of us head off anywhere else and some of us holiday at home.

However you plan to spend your summer holiday, even if it is just the gazetted days, start planning now. Think about where you are going, how you'll be getting there, where you'll stay and what you'll be doing. Work out your holiday budget and start saving towards it.

Take some time to research accommodation costs, travel cost, discounts to entertainment and restaurants and anything else you would like to do on your holiday.

Look for discount opportunities online and through any club or organisation affiliations you might have.

It might be cold and dreary right now and holidays may seem a long way off but summer and holiday time will be here before you know it.

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22 July 2015

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 22

Think Themes 

Start scanning the sales for items that fit a theme. In a discount bin full of mismatched items, sale items might not seem appealing as gifts, but if you create a collection, you can put it in a gift basket to wow your loved ones! For instance, you might find headbands, nail polish and slippers separately, but together it makes a fun spa gift basket.

Or you could keep an eye out for the ingredients to make this Gingerbread House Kit  or stock up on the ingredients to make Cheapskates Washing Powder and Miracle Spray and put together a green cleaning kit - knit a couple of dishcloths, include the tip sheets and you have a lovely, useful and inexpensive gift.

When you have a theme shopping is easy and by starting now it will be cheaper too.

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21 July 2015

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 21

Stocking Stuffers 

Start looking now for those little things you can use for stocking stuffers, they are everywhere.  Little notebooks, markers and crafting supplies, small Lego sets, toiletries, stickers, colouring books (even for adults!), pencils,  perfumes and aftershaves, hair accessories, car accessories, novelty desk items, nuts, chocolates, DVDs, CDs are all things that will be on sale between now and then end of November. In early December you can add tea, coffee, lovely biscuits,  so stock up. They are all things that will store so add them to your present box now to save money, time and energy in December.

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It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 20


If you love to give homemade gifts like jam, lemon butter, pickles, mustard, bread'n'butter cucumbers, pickled onions, drink mixes, spice mixes and so on you need jars.

I love pretty or quirky jars for my gift giving, using jars that are embossed with fruit or flower designs, or different shapes (octagonal is my favourite). You can buy them, but even from op shops you'll be paying 50 cents each for them. Start saving your jars now. And ask friends and family to save them for you too. They can be washed and dried and stored until you need them. Then when you're ready to start cooking just sterilise them and they're ready to fill.

And now is a good time to think about labels and jar toppers too. There are hundreds of ideas for pretty labels online, you're sure to find one you love. For jar toppers buy half a metre of pretty fabric and cut it into  circles 5cm larger than the jar lids. You can use plain scissors but pinking shears give a lovely zig zag edge that looks great and doesn't fray.

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 19

Update your Christmas Card List

Take some time to update your Christmas card list. Make sure addresses are up to date, delete any addresses you no longer need and add those new addresses to ensure that when it comes time to write and send your cards you won't forget anyone.

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 18

Make your own gift tags

Gift tags aren't expensive, especially if you've stockpiled them during the after-Christmas sale. But  why have the same gift tags as everyone else?

Take a look through your  wrapping paper, Christmas cards and gift bags and consider making matching gift tags.

Step 1: Simply cut a circle or get creative and use your biscuit cutters to make shapes. I like hearts, gingerbread men and wreaths (trace a larger circle, then a smaller circle in the centre and cut out the smaller circle).

Step 2: Use a hole punch to make a small hole in the top of the card.

Step 3:  Attach a short piece of string which can be attached to a present or gift bag.

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18 July 2015

Menu Plan July 19 -25 2015

It's time to post next week's meal plan. This week the rising cost of meat has been in the news. Thankfully the freezer still has plenty in it, even with the freezer challenge I'm doing.

I have noticed that even mince is going up - $5.99/kg for regular mince (I'm used to paying no more than $3.99) and that's had me thinking about how to stretch the meat we eat so we can eat within our budget and still have a healthful diet.

This week we're having vegetarian chilli. The whole family loves this dish. I use baked beans, refried beans and kidney beans with diced tomatoes and serve it over toasted cornbread (my favourite recipe is below). Yum! There are never leftovers when I make this.

I've also added fish cakes; we all love them and they're a good way to get fish into our diet, easy to make, freeze well and can be eaten hot or cold. When I make fish cakes I usually make at least a double batch. If I'm going to be egging and crumbing and frying and generally making a mess then it has to be worthwhile. I have plenty of tuna and potatoes in the pantry so maybe a triple batch to add to my freezer stocks (and I'll have to pretend there's no such things as the freezer challenge).

Sunday: Roast chicken, baked veggies, gravy

Monday: Vegetarian Chilli, cornbread

Tuesday: Meatloaf, steamed potato, greens

Wednesday: Fish cakes, salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Pasta bake, salad, garlic bread

Saturdays: Hamburgers

This is my favourite cornbread recipe. I make it often, especially when we are camping because it's perfect to cook in the camp oven. To make it more convenient I'll prepare six packets of the dry ingredients at a time, just need to add the wet ingredients when I want to make a batch.

Easy Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

Stir all ingredients in mixing bowl until just combined. Beat well with a wooden spoon for one minute. Pour into well greased 20 centimetre square cake tin. Bake at 220 degrees Celsius for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

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17 July 2015

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 17

Prepare your own ‘Favourite Things’ Gift Basket

Starting early, you can give a lucky recipient a mixed CD of their favourite songs, favourite magazine, lotion, hand soap…etc.  Shopping sales now would make this gift very affordable and fun!

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16 July 2015

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 16

Put Together a Family Photo Album

Use kinder and/or school photos of the kids, add birthday photos and family holiday snaps to get started.  Starting now will give you time to be thoughtful of the pictures you would like to use. Then either make an album or buy a small album (around $5 each from dollar shops) and add appropriate embellishments. These small albums make wonderful gifts for grand-parents, great-grandparents or family and friends you don't see very often.

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15 July 2015

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 15

Let's Talk Turkey

Tough though you may find it to think of presents, trees and turkeys in July, now is the perfect time to think about these things. Whether you were born organized, or like me need to be encouraged a little, getting a head start today will save hours of needless stress, work and rushing around in December.

There are those of us who enjoy shopping in December, with the crowds and the carols and chintzy store decorations. And then there are those amazingly organized souls who can shop five months ahead of time, wrap and label each gift AND remember exactly where they have it stored!

Me, I'm a mixture of both. I like to be prepared, and know who is on my gift list and what I have planned for them. I am not into shopping though. I am into making. I love to give handcrafted gifts, made with love and affection especially for someone special.

Whether you are a shop ahead, crafter or leave-it-until-December personality, what you do need to do is start today.  If you like to leave your Christmas shopping until December, start stashing cash now to avoid debt in December.

If you love to hand make gifts, I can tell you from experience that leaving it until December is leaving it too late. Start now. Get out your craft and pattern books. Check your craft and sewing supplies. Look for new ideas (check out the Crafts & Hobbies section of the Tip Store) and get going.

And for those who love to shop early, go for it. Print off our Master Gift List and then divide the total by the number of weeks between now and December 23, work out your gift budget and start shopping.

Anything you can do between now and December to prepare for Christmas will pay off  in two ways. The first of course is financial. Starting early allows you to wait for sales, look for bargains and have a choice.

And the second payoff is the one you get when on the first of December you can put your tree up, place the beautifully wrapped gifts underneath it, sit back and really enjoy the next twenty-four days.

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