30 October 2015

Cath's Meal Plan 1st - 7th November 2015

I've been spoilt this year having a Tasman Meat store close by. The low prices at Tasman have really helped our grocery budget, but now even their prices are going up. $6.99 a kilo for regular mince is way beyond my budget, let alone anything like steak or a roast so things are looking grim here in the meat department.

I have plenty of chicken fillets (they've been consistently no more than $6.99 all year) but red meat is getting very low. I'll be going back to my favourite vegetarian recipes very soon if I can't find a decent meat sale.

This week we're having individual meatloaves (or giant rissoles!). I make individual meatloaves because the recipe goes further. I can get 12 little meatloaves from one rissole recipe, so that's two family meals and two singles serves for the freezer. If I were to make a single meatloaf from the recipe I'd get one family meal and maybe four single serves for the freezer.

In reality it is simple portion control. I could just cut the slice thinner and still get 12 from the one loaf, but aesthetically they'd look skimpy and mean.

Appearances are everything and a lovely little glazed and shiny individual meatloaf, browned and plump, surrounded by vegetables on the plate looks so much more. And so I make little meatloaves and stretch our grocery budget just a little more.

Individual Meatloaves

500g mince
1 cup rolled oats
1 large carrot, grated
1 large onion, grated
1 large tomato, diced
1 large zucchini, grated
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Combine all meatloaf ingredients together well. Use your hands to mix, it's easier. Divide the mixture into 12. Grease a 12 cup mini loaf tin. Press the mixture into the tin. If you don't have a mini loaf tin, use a large muffin tin or shape the loaves by hand and bake them on a biscuit tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the loaves are cooking make the glaze by combining all the ingredients. After 15 minutes cooking time brush each loaf with the glaze. Return to the oven and bake a further 15 - 20 minutes or until the tops are sticky and the loaves are cooked through. Baste with any leftover glaze during the cooking time.

I serve these with mashed potato and steamed veggies (carrot straws, broccoli, beans, corn etc.)

Sunday: Roast Lamb

Monday: Individual meatloaves, potato casserole, steamed carrots & beans

Tuesday: Spag bol, salad, garlic toast

Wednesday: Chicken tortellini

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Italian Vegetarian Meatballs in tomato sauce over thin spaghetti

Saturday: Muffin Surprise

Being Aware saves you Big Time

When it comes to grocery shopping being aware is the thing that will save you the most money.

  • Being aware that specials are not always specials.
  • Being aware that "bulk" buys are not always cheaper.
  • Being aware that supermarkets only want to part you from your money.

I believe that the best way to save money on your groceries is to pay for the things that are most important to you and for everything else get the best quality at the lowest possible price.

For example you can save up to 50% on staples by being aware. Flour is flour, sugar is sugar. (Generic flour and sugar are both products of Australia, saving you money and helping to keep Australian jobs.) Don't be tricked into paying extra for a brightly coloured pack or for the cardboard box – you just throw them away.

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29 October 2015

What to do with potato water

If you boil or steam peeled potatoes, don't throw out the water!

Potato water is so handy and can be used for so many things - even cleaning stainless steel!

It's full of nutrients, which means it's good for you, so use it. I use it instead of milk in mashed potatoes, it makes them light and fluffy. I also add it to stock to make soup, or to make gravy. It's good for thinning a pasta sauce too.

You can use it in baking, especially breads (it is especially good in cornbread), to replace some or all of the milk.

If you boil peeled potatoes for any reason, don't pour the water down the drain. It's chock full of nutrients and potato starch, which means it's good food.

If you find you can't use it in cooking, use it to clean your stainless steel cooktop or fridge or pots and pans. Just dip a cloth in the potato water and wipe it over the stainless steel then buff with a soft, dry cloth.

Potato water will keep in the fridge for a two to three days before it starts to get slimy. It will freeze, and be perfectly fine to consume when thawed but it will go grey and look horribly unappetising so I don't recommend freezing.

And, if after all those ideas, you still haven't used your potato water up, use it to water you pot plants. They'll love the moisture and the nutrient boost.

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25 October 2015

The Week that Was

The first red strawberry this season - and it was so very good :)
Downloaded some free ebooks for my Kindle from hundredzeroes.com. I am loving being able to read to my heart's content without having to go to the library (although I still go to the library) and without having to buy books (although I'll still buy books - I love my books). The variety available is amazing - novels, biographies,  cook books, lifestyle books - and all free!

Dried the washing on the line.

Kept the heater off - I'm thinking we may be able to turn the pilot on the central heating off for the summer a little early this year.

Caught the water from showers and the kitchen and used it to water pot plants, in the washing machine and to mop floors.

The roses have started to bloom again along the driveway
Cooked all our meals from scratch, using ingredients in the freezer, fridge and pantry.

Tidied the linen cupboard and put aside a bag to go to the op shop.

Spent an hour tidying our wardrobe and put aside a bag to go to the op shop. Rearranged some storage so it's easier to access.

Worked on Christmas cards (some for the card swap, some for Mum and some to send to my card list).

Some of the Christmas cards made this week
Had a surprise weekend away from my darling husband. He used a gift voucher for accommodation and whisked me off to the new Mercure hotel in Warragul when I arrived home on Friday evening. He even packed our breakfasts, lunches, drinks and snacks. We bought a barbecue chicken and some bread rolls and some ice creams for our dinner last night.

Worked in the garden for a few hours this week. It's very therapeutic weeding and watering and mulching.

These are the peas when I last checked them - last Thursday
Had a quick business trip to Sydney and enjoyed a beautiful lunch on the Manly wharf, watching the ferries come and go before jumping in a taxi back to the airport. More about that and how it affects the Cheapskates Club soon.

Started using my 2016 diary! Already! Wow but time just flies by in this very hectic world we live in. I was dumbfounded when I realised I needed a new diary now. Thankfully I was able to find a school diary for $1.99. I always use a school diary - they have enough space to write appointments and jot down notes, they are a week to a   view, and have all the school and public holidays marked, as well as having space to note special projects, planning etc. But best of all they're sturdy and cheap, and fit neatly in my bag. So much better than any other diary I've tried over the years, and I've tried a few different brands and versions.

Used a 4c off voucher to fill the car with petrol on Thursday when it was $111c/litre. I'm finding that I'm driving less so I'm only having to fill up once every 16 days or so - our petrol budget is going down!

Reworked our budget for the rest of the year.

Dropped some unwanted clothes and doona covers we no longer need or use to the op shop.

And I've just put the roast in the oven for tea tonight, peeled the veggies and made an apple crumble to put in the oven later for dessert tonight.

And this is the week that was.

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23 October 2015

Cath's Meal Plan 25 - 31 October 2015

Over the last few weeks we've been eating out of the freezer, in the hopes of a decent meat sale. I'm still waiting, and freezer stocks are dwindling. There's not a whole lot of variety in there at the moment, so this week I've had to be creative and use what I have for dinner.

I found a piece of beef at the bottom of the roast bag, so it is scheduled for Wednesday night as a slow cooker roast because I'm busy all day Wednesday. The slow cooker isn't only for soups and stews, it does a great roast too - and not just in winter! It's also good for summer cooking - you get a lovely roast without having to heat the house up with the oven. I usually add the veggies to the slow cooker a couple of hours before the roast is ready and it becomes a one pot dinner. Can't get an easier roast dinner than that.

Slow Cooker Roast

I brown the roast on all sides, then cover it in a mixture of wholegrain mustard, garlic and ground pepper. I don't measure the garlic or pepper, but usually two cloves of garlic crushed is enough for our tastes. The browning gives the roast a nice colour (which it won't get in the slowcooker).

Put the browned meat onto a roasting or cake rack and pop the lot into the slow cooker. The rack out of my small roaster is the right size for my slow cooker. If you don't have a rack use an upside down bread and butter plate. This simple step keeps the roast up out of any juices and lets the meat actually roast rather than stew.  Pour a cup of water into the slow cooker. Cook on Low for 8 - 10 hours (depends on the size of the roast and the slow cooker - some cook faster and hotter than others).

After about six hours place your peeled and chopped veggies around the meat and let them cook while the meat is finishing.

When the meat and veggies are cooked remove them from the slow cooker. Remove the roasting rack or bread and butter plate and use the juices to make the gravy.

This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: BBQ kransky, hot potato salad, coleslaw

Tuesday: Sweet-n-sour chicken, fried rice

Wednesday: Slow cooker pot roast, mashed potato, peas, corn, gravy

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Rissoles, mashed potato, steamed carrots & beans

Saturday: Haystacks

22 October 2015

Sleep Like a Baby During a Heatwave

It's still spring and yet we've had record heat since the beginning of October, and that has meant some already very warm nights. This trip from Cheapskater Trudy is an easy way to keep cool on those hot, sticky summer (or spring!) nights, and it uses something most households probably already have.

Reverse Cycle Heat Bags

Sleep well at night by using reverse cycle heat bags. Put your wheat or rice packs in the freezer during the day and then use them to rest your feet on at night. You'll cool down really quickly and be able to sleep like a baby.
Contributed by Trudy

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21 October 2015

Wrinkly Stew

This meal idea was contributed by Cheapskater Gillian and I love it! It's a no waste recipe, perfect for we Cheapskaters who like to use every last veggie in the crisper. It's not a recipe as such, more a guideline on how to make a delicious meal using the wrinkly veggies lurking at the bottom of the fridge.

"At the end of the week before I go grocery shopping for fresh vegetables I take all the last week's vegetables out of the fridge. This way I start with a clean fridge. I chop up all the old bits and pieces of vegetables, add some spices and dried soup mix and let it all simmer in the crockpot for about four hours. Sometimes I will add curry spices, other times tomato and pasta, sometimes lentils and brown rice. This is then transferred into plastic containers, labelled and used for lunches. I save money on brown bagging my lunch instead of buying out. I save on time having to make up a separate lunch every day. My fresh vegetables seem to last longer and stay fresh since they are not mixed in with the old stuff from the week before."

Do you make a wrinkly stew (or soup)? What is your favourite way of using up the leftover veggies before your next shopping day?

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20 October 2015

Onion Jam

Another recipe that makes a wonderful gift, this onion jam goes well with cheese, spicy sausages, steak, in tarts sprinkled with sliced olives, as a topping on baked potatoes or as the relish on a burger.

We really like this and it's easy enough to make just a small batch on the side of the barbecue while the meat is cooking.

Onion Jam

1 tbsp good quality, nice tasting olive oil (in this case it will pay to buy just a small bottle of the really good stuff)
500g brown onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them, stirring them until they really are translucent, you don't want them to brown and crisp. Be patient, this will take 15 - 20 minutes. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved and the mixture starts to caramelise. Add the balsamic vinegar. Taste it - I usually like to add more balsamic to the mix, we like our onion jam quite tart. If the mixture is too thick, gently stir through a little cold water. It needs to be thick but not solid.

Spoon into hot, sterilised jars and seal. Store in the fridge for up to three months.

This makes a great addition to a gourmet hamper. Team it with pita chips, zucchini pickle and a good, sharp cheese in a small cardboard box (corrugated card looks great, but otherwise wrap and line it with brown paper).  Put the lot into an extra-large oven bag and use burlap or hessian ribbon to tie it off.

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To Do

I've been updating the list throughout the day as I've finished tasks. Didn't get them all done, but didn't really expect to. What's left have been moved to other days.

I love "to do" lists and use them every day, otherwise I'm sure I'd always be wondering what was coming next.

I have one for our home/garden/family and one for my blog/website.

I use One Note (it came with the lap top) for both lists as it auto saves and easily turns a list into a to do list.

During December each year I create a new notebook for the next year, then add one folder per month with a new page for each day.  It's a simple filing system and I can go back and check what I was doing in the garden this time last year or what sewing or baking I did in November for Christmas etc.

I write tomorrow's home list just before I turn the laptop off for the night, so it's ready for the next day and I know what I would like to do first thing. Life in our house can be chaotic so a list of tasks, even simple tasks, helps me stay calm and organised.

For the blog and website the lists are fairly static - I do the same tasks regularly, although they do vary from day-to-day.

Here's my to do list for today:

To do (House): 

Change our bed
Clean bedroom - dust and vacuum
Clean ensuite
Tidy linen cupboard
Spend one hour on my wardrobe
Make Christmas lists: gifts, food, cards
Tidy laundry cupboard
Tidy under kitchen sink
Tidy under bathroom sink
Op shop run
Dry bread crusts and process into crumbs
Make cards - 10 for swap - Christmas
Dinner - make patties and chill
Trim roses in driveway - cut back shoots
Prune suckers off bottlebrush
Prune suckers off apple tree
Mending - two things

To do (Blog):

Write TOTD posts (Wed, Thu, Fri)              
Write Stockpile posts for next two weeks              
Write Living off stockpile post              
Write up Week that Was post              
Write up mint tin post              
Take photos of mint tin post
Upload mint tin post            

To do (Website):

MORF - check for change of address forms:
Check Members MORF for change of details
Send TOTD Newsletter
MORF - Check for answers to question
MORF - check for tip of week: - format and add to Latest Tips and Tip Store
Update Tip Store page (first section) with new total for Tip Store
Check Member's MORF for new recipes, add to Recipe File
Check members renewals:
Check expired memberships
Check bank account for direct deposit registrations, activate and email new members.
Format newsletter
Work on November Journal
Create printables for December Journal
Check renewals
Process and send book orders
Post Office

It looks like a long list but most of those things only take a few minutes to do. I'll have plenty of time for a cup of tea and lunch and most of them are fun and enjoyable.  And in amongst all that I'll call Mum and chat to the kids about their days. And by 7.30pm I'll be finished - what isn't done will wait. The evenings are for spending time with my husband (and the kids if they're around) and relaxing until bed time.
To do lists don't need to be complicated, they don't need to be fancy, they just need to guide you through your day or week. My to do list gives me peace, I know if it's on the list it will get done, sometimes not always on the day it's listed, but it will get done.

Do you write a to do list? 

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18 October 2015

The Week that Was

Sweet juicy oranges - these ones we are eating, they are so juicy and sweet straight from the tree
We spent some money this week.- my darling surprised me with a new freezer. He used money he's been stashing away to buy it so it didn't impact our budget or our savings at all. He's such a romantic, he knows exactly what makes me happy.

Spent a morning sorting the big freezer and transferring the veggie packs and fruit packs to the new, smaller freezer. Updated the inventory and have a shopping list of what is needed. Now to wait until Tasman has a really good sale so I can stock up. Legs of lamb are between 50 cents and $1.50 more than they were last spring, and regular mince has gone up $3/kilo! We have enough homemade pasta sauce left to last until the end of the year! How was that for (not) planning last summer :)

Otherwise not much money spent - top up on fruit and veg, some milk and $1.50 at the op shop. I didn't even need petrol this week, still have 3/4 tank.

I worked in the vegetable garden, weeding, watering, feeding with worm tea.

Picked oranges and mandarins from the fruit trees for the fruit bowl.

These mandarins are so sweet and juicy - and this little tree just keeps on producing them, I haven't bought mandarins in months
Washed the car (it really, really needed it) using a bucket, a sponge, the banister brush and the hose to rinse off. Now it's clean and shiny again.

Baked some Cranberry Hootycreeks and some M&M cookies to take to friends who lost their mother to cancer this week.

Bought a very nice scone tray cover and a pretty doyley from the op shop for $1.50. I've taken a pattern off the scone tray cover to make some using fabric from my stash.
I haven't washed or ironed it yet, I have taken a pattern though. Vintage linens should only be handwashed and line dried, and never ironed until they are ready to be used.
Collected water from the showers and the kitchen sink. Poured some in the washing machine and used the rest to water the pot plants.

Dried the washing on the line - no excuse really, it has been so hot this week.

Kept the windows, blinds and curtains closed on the hot days. Opened the house up overnight to let it cool down.

Cooked all our meals from scratch using ingredients in the pantry, fridge and freezer.

Did some baking for the freezer and have started the Christmas cakes - the fruit is soaking in orange juice as we speak. I'll be making two tomorrow - one for us, one for my brother. Then I'll make another two smaller cakes for Mum and my Aunty and Uncle. After that I'll make another two, again for us and my brother - they freeze beautifully and I slice them, triple wrap them and freeze them for easy morning teas or treats (we all love fruit cake).

Next week I'll do the puddings - four all up, one for Christmas Day, one for New Year's Day, one for my brother and one to cut into single serves and freeze for next year. All the fruit has come from either Aldi or Hindustan Imports and the other ingredients are either Aldi or Coles Savings brands. Using these cheaper ingredients makes them very affordable, especially as gifts. Our gift budget is $15 per person for extended family and friends, and these cakes and puddings come in at between $9 - $12 depending on the ingredients.

Came down with either a very heavy cold or a dose of the flu on Friday and went hunting for simple remedies. Then Wayne came down with it yesterday and Hannah woke up with it this morning. Thank goodness for the frozen lemon juice, two cubes in a mug, a spoonful of Manuka honey and top up with just off the boil water makes a soothing drink for sore throats. Paracetamol for the aches and a drop of eucalyptus on a hanky for the stuffy head and we're all on the mend.

And lastly, a good stash of freezer meals made dinner easy for anyone who felt like eating on Friday and Saturday nights. I love those freezer meals, especially when the last think I want to do is get tea :)

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16 October 2015

Cath's Meal Plan 18 - 24 October 2015

Stuffed Capsicum

4 large capsicum, halved and seeded (green, red or yellow - doesn't matter)
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
410 g can kidney beans, undrained
300g can whole kernel corn
1 pkt Taco seasoning

Heat oven to 175°. Mix filling ingredients and place 1/2 cup of the filling mixture into each capsicum half. Place capsicum into an ungreased  Pyrex baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes or until tender. Garnish with salsa and serve with corn chips and more salsa and rice.

This week we are eating:

Sunday: Roast Beef

Monday: Stuffed capsicum

Tuesday: Salmon & potato rissoles, tossed salad

Wednesday: Yorkshire meat pancakes, salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Tomato & onion quiche, salads

Saturday: Baked bean tacos

We had a win this week and have been able to buy a small upright freezer. It's just the right size for storing fruit and vegetable packets, which is what I'll be stocking it with. That will free up room in the big freezer for meat and chicken, which will hopefully come on sale soon. I'm almost due for a quarterly meat shop and my list is growing by the day. It also means I'll be able to get my big freezer organised and tidied up - again!

How does another freezer affect my meal plan? Well for starters it means I have more choice because I'm able to freeze more food. I freeze just about anything (and I'm preparing a post on what and how I freeze for next week) because it is an efficient and safe way of long-term food storage.

And that of course means I have lots of great ingredients to use in cooking and baking, giving us a much bigger variety in our meals.

I love my freezer(s) and couldn't live without them. I know because when our first freezer stopped working I tried to survive with just the small freezer on top of our fridge. It was a dismal failure and within a fortnight I had another freezer.

The Garage Sale Shopping Checklist

It's garage sale season, the best time of year to pick up bargains for the house, the garden, the kids and of course yourself!

I love garage sales and over the years I've picked up some amazing bargains - a Baby Born cot and bedding for $5! A Thomas the Tank Engine railway set for $7! Levis for $2 (and Wayne is still wearing them), Tupperware for no more than $2 (that's my limit for Tupperware), tapestry canvases for $3 (and they retail for anything from $30 up - my best buy was a canvas that was still selling in Spotlight for $89, I paid $6!).

I've bought pots for the garden, furniture for the house, curtains, clothes for the kids when they were small, clothes for Wayne and I, a video camera ($5!), books, puzzles, plants, toys, lamps, garden tools, camping gear - all sorts of things. The most expensive thing I've ever bought at a garage sale was a $12 leadlight light fitting that I just loved and it was brand new, never used, still in the packaging.

If you want great bargains, garage sales will provide them for you. But you need to be organised and have a plan - you won't get everything on your list the first time you go out.

It is well worth taking a few minutes to plan your garage sale shopping spree.

Plan your garage sale shopping trip. Start by mapping out the sales you plan to visit. I usually start with the sale furthest away from home, and work my way back. It just means that by the end of the morning or day, when I'm exhausted from all that bargain hunting, I don't have to travel a long way home.

Don't forget to set the alarm! You don't want to sleep in and miss the best bargains.

Have a shopping list. This rule applies to garage sales just as it does to regular shopping. I have a little list that I add to regularly as I find things we need or want. I also keep a list of gifts I'm looking for - garage sales are great for finding unwanted, brand new gifts at rock bottom prices.

Set a budget and stick to it. The easiest way to do that is to take just that money with you.

Get your money together. The day before go to the bank and get your spending money in change. It really helps the seller and you if you have the right money when you pay for your brilliant bargains.

Make sure the car is ready to go. Check you have enough petrol. Empty the boot so you have room for your shopping.

Pack drinks and snacks. The night before put some water in the fridge and pack some snacks. You'll need to stay hydrated and energised. I usually have three bottles of water and crackers and cheese and some fruit in a small insulated lunchbox for when the munchies hit.

Check the weather forecast. Make sure you have a hat and sunscreen if it is going to be hot, or a rain jacket with a hood if it's going to be wet (umbrellas are too cumbersome to handle).

Dress comfortably. Remember to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. It will be a long day and you'll be on your feet for a lot of it.

Leave the kids at home. If it is at all possible shop by yourself. Kids just slow you down - it takes time to get them in and out of the car. You need to keep track of them while you're digging through the things on display. They'll distract you by pointing out things not on your list. They need regular drinks and food, and that means toilet breaks. If you can leave them at home, you'll have a definite advantage over the shoppers with children in tow! Perhaps you can arrange to swap playdates with another family - you watch their children while they shop and they'll watch your while you shop.

And remember to have fun! You're hunting for bargains so enjoy the hunt and finding them.

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15 October 2015

Delicious Ways to Use Almond Meal

Betty emailed to ask if I had some suggestions for using up excess almond meal. I love almonds, and anything made from almonds, and use them in a lot of my recipes.

I'm not sure why Betty has excess almond meal, perhaps she's making her own almond milk and can't throw out the meal that is left. I would struggle with throwing it out too.

My first thought was to use it in cakes and muffins. Betty's probably already doing that, but you can easily substitute up to half the flour in your regular recipes with almond meal. The more almond meal you use the denser and more moist the cake or muffin will be so keep that in mind - it doesn't go so well in a sponge, but in a chocolate cake or even a banana or carrot cake it is divine.

Add it to bread.

Add it to muesli for extra flavour, crunch and nutrition.

Sprinkle it over layers of filo pastry to make a delicious strudel.

Mix it into cream cheese with some finely chopped herbs, roll into balls and then into more almond meal for an appetizer.

Almond meal is also delicious in crumbles, sweet or savoury. I add it to my regular crumble recipe with the dry ingredients. It gives the crumble a delicious nutty flavour and a little delightfully unexpected crunch. Try it next time you make a fruit crumble.

Use it instead of breadcrumbs on au gratin dishes. Almond meals goes very well with cauliflower and broccoli. Use it to replace crumbs on top of casseroles and mornays.

It makes a nice change to breadcrumbs for chicken schnitzels and fish. Just dip the chicken or fish in some plain flour, then an egg wash, then the almond meal. Let the crumbed meat chill for half an hour before cooking - this gives the crumbs time to set and stops them falling off during the browning.

Process it until it becomes almond butter, then slather it on pancakes, scones or muffins and drizzle with a little honey - a truly delicious morning tea. Almond meal is just processed almonds, almond butter is almonds processed beyond the meal stage to the "butter" stage.

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14 October 2015

12 Strategies for Coping with a Financial Emergency

Oh no! You're about to lose your job, or the car has died an untimely and very expensive death. You've only just started your emergency savings and you don't have six months' pay stashed away yet. So what are you going to do?

You may be tempted to panic, but don't!

You need to stop shopping, cut your expenses to the bone and stash that cash. Knowing that you have cash available to pay the bills will give you peace of mind and confidence to survive whatever the setback may be.

Here are some cash-saving strategies:

*Stop shopping immediately. Live on the food in your pantry and freezer, wear the clothes and shoes you have. Cut and/or colour your own hair.

*Make minimum payments on credit card bills. This is only a temporary strategy! As soon as you find a job or get the car fixed, go back to your debt reduction plan.

*Stop eating out (the potential savings here are huge). This includes buying lunches for work.

*Cook from scratch. It's not as hard or time consuming as you might think. Stick to basic meals to cut costs and save time.

*Don't be tempted to buy expensive, convenience foods.

*To really save at the supermarket, shop the perimeter of the store and avoid the centre aisles.

*Make $2 meals. It's possible to get your meal cost down to $2 per meal and still eat well. Cooking from scratch and buying what is on sale can slash your grocery budget. Options include grilled-cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, spaghetti with meat sauce, noodles with fresh vegetables and pieces of chicken, baked, stuffed potatoes, omelettes, meatloaf, casseroles and stews and homemade salads such as coleslaw, potato and noodle salads. There is a section in the Recipe File for $2 Dinners.

*Have a garage sale. Clean your house and garage and make some money too. If your clothes are in good shape and reasonably in style, consider consignment shops. If you have more valuable items, advertise online or other publications where you don't pay unless you sell.

*Cancel your pay TV, it's a luxury you can't afford.

*Cancel your Internet access. Use computers at your public library for free.

*Stop renting videos. Check them out of the library, instead.

*Leave the car at home whenever possible. Walk, ride a bike, car pool or use public transport.

Even if you don't have a financial emergency, take the opportunity to start your emergency savings fund. If you already have one, you can use these ideas to fast track it, or increase it. Having your own 'financial insurance' will take away a lot of stress and a cash emergency won't seem such a disaster.

And last of all, stay positive. Meet the challenge head on and use it to improve your financial skills.

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13 October 2015

Handmade Cherry Ripe Truffles

These delicious little morsels are no-bake, quick and very tasty. As we're coming into summer (being no bake they're ideal) and party season (quick and delicious) and gift-giving season (they look great in a cello box or in a cellophane bag with a ribbon and a label) I thought I'd share it with you.

They can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to four days, or freeze them for up to two months (but they've never lasted more than a few days in our house).

Cherry Ripe Truffles

2 cups coconut
1 pkt plain biscuits (Scotch Fingers, Marie, Milk Arrowroot), crushed into fine crumbs
100g glace cherries
2 tbsp raspberry jam
1 tin condensed milk - MOO is fine
60g Copha
1 pkt milk chocolate melts

Combine first 6 ingredients in blender and mix well. Roll into balls and refrigerate 20 minutes. Melt chocolate. Dip balls in chocolate, drain and place on baking paper to set.

Note: I use coconut and biscuits from Aldi, glace cherries from Hindustan Imports, MOO condensed milk, homemade jam and chocolate melts bought when they're on half-price sale.

You can use dark or white chocolate for a change.

This recipe costs approximately $4 to make. I roll teaspoons of the mixture and get 30 balls from one recipe.

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12 October 2015

Simply Gorgeous Tea Cup Coasters

How gorgeous are these tea cup coasters? They're so pretty and cute and really quick and easy to make, using up scraps of fabric and lace.

They are so cute and really are quick - 10 minutes and you have one completed! If you work on a production line and do all the cutting, then the handle making, then the sewing at once they're even faster!

You will need:
Fabric scraps
Thin batting*
Scraps of lace, ribbon, braid or ric-rak (optional)
Buttons or beads (optional)
Tea cup template

Step 1. Print the template and cut out (or draw a tea cup shape freehand if you're talented like that - I'm not).

Step 2. Pin the template to a double layer of fabric and cut out (2 shapes). Pin the template to the batting and cut out. Cut a strip of fabric 3cm x 8cm for the cup handle.

Step 3. Make the handle by folding the long edges to the centre, press.  Fold the strip in half again along the long side, press. Stitch along the edge.

Step 4.  If you are adding it, cut a length of lace the width of the top of your cup. Stitch in place. Stitch a button or bead into place if you are using them.

Step 5. Pin the handle in place. Lay the second piece of fabric right side down on top. Finally lay the batting over both fabric pieces. Pin in place. Starting at the bottom corner stitch around one side, across the top, down the other side (making sure you catch the ends of the handle). Leave the bottom open for turning.

Step 6. Snip the corners. Turn the coaster right side out. Press the bottom edges under 6mm. Hand stitch closed. Press.

Repeat the process to make more coasters - they're so cute and quick and they make wonderful gifts. Bundle them in sets or present one with a pretty tea cup and saucer and a small packet of gourmet tea bags.

I didn't have any batting but I did have a bath mat that was past it's best. I used it as the batting and it is wonderful - thick enough to absorb any heat or spills but still light and not too thick.

I had some embroidery samples on calico that I had been waiting to use - they're now tea cup coasters and look so pretty! And those samples have been put to good use.

There is so much you can do with these coasters to pretty them up. Stamp designs on plain fabrics, mix'n'match fabrics for the front, back and handle, add buttons or beads, trim with lace, do a scalloped edge on the top of the cup - use your imagination and see what you can come up with.

Using fabric scraps and towelling for the batting these coasters have cost nothing to make, yet they look amazing.

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