25 January 2016

Happy 15th Anniversary Aldi!

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Aldi opening in Australia.

That 15 years has just flown by. I remember watching A Current Affair with great interest, and seeing the opening of the first store in Sydney, hearing what people were saying about the products and more importantly the low, low prices and wishing I was there.

Most Australians were wary of this unknown, privately owned and very secretive German supermarket. But we all like a bargain so on opening day it was almost a stampede as shoppers flocked to be amongst the first to sample unknown products and prices.

I remember being almost green with envy at the prices and just busting to try Aldi out.

I remember being so excited when the Chirnside Park store opened here in Melbourne. It was still a distance to travel, but not so far that it was unreasonable. I didn't go the first day, but I was there the very next.

And I've been an Aldi convert ever since.

Not long after the Ferntree Gully store opened I took my mother for her very first Aldi shopping experience one Friday morning. Hannah still goes into hysterics at Grandma's reaction at the checkout.


And yes, she was shouting - she was more excited than I was.

My grocery budget was tight and $86 for a month's worth of basic grocery items (flours, sugar, wheat biscuits, pasta, butter, milk, tinned tomatoes, tuna etc.) meant I had wriggle room in my grocery budget for the first time in over 10 years.

And shopping at Aldi still gives me wriggle room in my budget. Without Aldi's low prices, great range, amazing special buys and incredible 7 Day Deals we wouldn't be able to stick to our super-tight, extra stringent budget this year.

I am asked every week whether or not I really think Aldi saves shoppers money or is good for Australia. The answer is a resounding "YES" to both questions, so much so that I've run workshops based on Aldi shopping lists. I'm running a workshop just on Aldi in Adelaide in February - Aldi will be opening in Adelaide on 3rd February.

I'm a very proud and loyal Aldi shopper and I am so very grateful you came to Australia.

So Aldi, happy anniversary!

I can't wait to see how much I save over the next 15 years.

24 January 2016

The Week that Was

The roses are blooming again, such a pretty pink colour

A busy week in the lead up to a few days away, leading a tour through the Victorian High Country and Snowy Mountains.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Wendy's last week with the Cheapskates card-making ladies. So many lovely cards made and so many ideas floating around my head. Can't wait for the next one.

Gratefully accepted some lovely fresh, home-grown rhubarb from Carol. Stewed it with a little lemon juice and then portioned it out and froze it for crumble and pie.

Enjoyed our new cooling on two very hot days. I'll have to wait and see how much it impacts the power bill (it's high enough as it is). We ran it for six hours both days so we'll wait and see which child we'll sell off to cover the running costs.

We kept the house shut up during the day, with blinds and curtains closed, to help keep the heat out. Opened it up after dark and left doors and windows open overnight to cool down. I was up before the sun three days to get everything shut up and the fans on. Combined with the new cooling it worked to keep the house beautifully cool; even when it was 37 outside it was only 27 in the family-room.

Knitted a soap sack to go with a crochet trimmed face washer and some handmade soap for a birthday present. Used a handmade card and a redecorated gift bag - total cost $6.35 (and most of that was the yarn and face washer!).

A knitted soap sack - made from cotton yarn. They're great knitted in bamboo yarn too.

Filmed a segment for A Current Affair on Thursday - it airs tomorrow night. Channel 9 at 7pm.

Finally closed the old website permanently. Feels a little strange but I'm loving the new website.

Picked more zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and finally cucumbers from the garden.

Fed the worms with veggie peelings and salad scraps.

Baked shortbread, Cranberry Hootycreeks and cheese twists and fruit cake and banana bread.

Saved shower warm-up water (thought I'd better specify, I've had queries about saving "shower water") and used it to water the pot plants and in the washing machine.

Filled both cars up using petrol dockets when petrol hit $101.5 cents a litre.

Dried catnip to make insect repellent.

Stitched a button on a pair of jeans for AJ so now he can wear them again.

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22 January 2016

Cath's Meal Plans 24/01 - 30/01/2016

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Two meal plans this week folks!

One is the meal plan for home, the other is a meal plan for Wayne and I. We will be away for a few days so I've adapted the meal plan to make life easier for both of us while we're travelling, with limited cooking facilities.

Here's the home meal plan. Hannah will make sure the boys stick to it (she's good like that) no matter how hard they try to talk her into takeaway.

Sunday: Roast Chicken and vegetables

Monday: Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas & salad

Tuesday: Spaghetti with creamy Vegetable Sauce

Wednesday: Chicken & Sun-dried Tomato Pasta Bake

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Beef'n'Broccoli Stir-fry

Saturday: Cheesy Stuffed Burgers

And here's the modified (highly) meal plan for Wayne and I:

Sunday: Roast chicken & veg

Monday: Pan-fried sandwiches & salad

Tuesday: Steak & salad

Wednesday: Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas & salad

Thursday: Meat balls, mash, beans, corn

Friday: Chicken Cacciatore over steamed rice

Saturday: Beef'n'Broccoli Stir-fry

Most of these meals are already in the freezer, so we just need to add either steamed veggies or salad - really easy dinners at home and away.

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11 January 2016

The Week that Was

I love the quiet and relaxed atmosphere that's January in Australia. Even the folk who are working tend to be more relaxed and casual.

Of course now our kids have all left school we don't have to stick to school holidays, every day could be that way. But they're not, so I still really enjoy the laid-back way our days unfold.

This week I had early appointments, but I didn't have to rush the day's start to get to them on time. It was much more relaxed. And even though Wayne is back at work, our mornings have been calmer and less stressed.

So this week I've started my mornings with coffee and watering. So peaceful in the garden first thing in the morning and they've been cool this week too.

We've all been catching the water while the showers warm up. I've used it in the iron (only a cup but it all counts), and to mop the floors and water the pot plants.

Fed the worm farm with fruit and veg peelings.

Added onion and citrus peelings to the bokashi.

Grated zucchini from the garden and bagged it for the freezer.

Made a batch of pickles using zucchini from the garden.

Picked lettuce, cumbers and tomatoes from the garden for our salads.

Sprayed the pavers with a salt and vinegar mixture to kill the weeds and saved at least $10.

Grated the melted chocolate from Christmas Day (it was HOT) and added it to Lunchbox Cookies with some leftover peanuts I chopped up.

Stuck to the grocery budget and bought 3L milk, a loaf of bread, some salami and a bottle of lemonade - total cost $9.64. Moved $13 to the grocery slush fund.

Used a gift card and some gift money to have Chinese takeaway for my birthday dinner. It was so good, and there were leftovers for tea on Friday.

Saved the containers from takeaway tea to use for single serve freezer meals.

Cut the bottom off a Body Shop strawberry handcream tube to get it all out. This is such nice hand cream, it was a gift last Christmas and I've been eking it out. Should be good for another few days.

Hannah made a black forest cake for dessert on Thursday night instead of buying dessert.

Thawed orange and lemon juice (frozen in October) to make cordial.

Hung the washing outside to dry.

Saved a gift bag and a pretty box to re-use. Saving? Maybe $10, the bag is really pretty and the box is gorgeous. I think I have a plan for it too.

Made caramel coffee syrup to use in flavoured iced coffee - saving at least $3 (the price of coffee syrups at Aldi).

Used some fruit flavoured tea bags to make iced tea - delicious and much cheaper than buying iced tea or even iced tea mixes.

Planted some mini cabbage and mini cauliflower seeds in tubes to start the autumn seedlings. They take a while to get to the planting out stage and by then the weather should be just right. I'll plant some more in three weeks for succession planting.

Chose pharmacy brand medicine over the prescribed brand and saved $38! Now to hope it works :)

Hemmed some old bath mats to use as floor rags.

Made a double batch of Miracle Spray.

Put things aside for donating as I came across them then did an op shop run on Friday. I have no idea where all this stuff comes from - I swear it breeds in the cupboards.

Gave the spending plan a quick once-over to make sure we're on track.

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The Value of a Present Box

....Is priceless! I have used a present box for years and it has saved us hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars!

I know it's still January and Christmas was just three weeks ago, but a present box will save you money, time and energy all year round. If you don't have one, seriously think about getting one started - you won't regret it.

Having a selection gifts, cards and wrapping on hand means no more emergency trips to the shops to pick up a present or a card, especially for those unexpected times. It means that you are able to stick to your gift budget without worrying about it. And if you have kids, you’ll appreciate the value when it comes to the year-round birthday party routine!

The idea of a present box is to keep a supply of gifts on hand, ready to use. But how do you get that supply?

Every time you see a suitable material or gift item, it's a reasonable price and you have the money in your gift budget buy it and put it in the present box. Now for me, a reasonable price is $5 or under – and this includes gifts for birthdays, weddings, new babies, thank you, house warmings, in fact any occasion.

Sometimes the bargain is great, but the cash isn't there. If you can only afford to buy one gift or you only find one gift, go ahead and get it. Then note it down so you’ll know you have it and if you've already allocated it to someone, note that down too.

I also have a list of people we give presents to: our children, our parents, siblings, friends, class mates, teachers, coaches etc. in a little notebook I keep in my handbag. I have the name of the person, the type of gift needed and the date it is needed listed in the notebook so that if I find something especially suitable, I can jot it down. This way I don’t double up or miss out on a really good gift bargain.

When the kids were at school I'd buy a lot of the same thing when I found something at the right price and then we'd always have a gift for a classmate's birthday. For example, in January each year during the back to school sales department stores, supermarkets, newsagents and office supply stores have great sales,  up to 80% off. I would stock up on book sets, stationery sets, games and puzzles at these sales. I saved hundreds of dollars doing this.

When I see wrapping paper on sale, I stock up too.  I stock up on gold, silver, blue, pink, purple and green - generic colours that can be used for any occasion. I also buy a roll of dots and a roll of stripes in generic colours when I see them. I store the rolls in a soft-drink can carton, standing them on end and it slides into the bottom of my wardrobe.

The present box lives in my wardrobe. I know where it is when I need it and prying eyes and fingers aren't so tempted to scrounge when it’s in Mum’s room, and I can get to it easily when I need to - that always helps.

I have a selection of baby gifts in there at the moment too – all from a Kmart throw-out trolley. They were 50 cents each, marked down from $7.99, $9.99 and $11.99! I picked up a range of sizes and colours from size 00 through to a size 2; half for boys and half for girls. We have a number of friends expecting this year, so they will all be used I'm sure.

Something else I do is to wrap and label the gifts as I finish making or get them if they are for specific people. They go into the box in order (sort of -  it can get a little scrambled). Then on the day I just have to take it out of the box. This saves so much time, especially at Christmas, when I have a lot of gifts to wrap and deliver.

The gift box idea is to save you money, time and energy and I love it. Stocking the gift box shouldn't be a chore or an added expense. Keep your eyes, ears and imagination open to the possibilities of gift shopping. I've bought a beautiful coffee set, brand new, still in the original box, unopened, at a garage sale for $4, when the retail price at Myer has been $39.95! I've found things on the throw out trolley, in the newspaper and even at the op shop.

Our present box has saved my sanity so many times over the years, simply because I can go to the box and either grab a gift or let someone else grab a gift. I've even had my mother ring and ask if I had something suitable in the gift box – and I have!

Next week I'll post some of the items I stock the present box with and how I add value to them without adding to the cost.

09 January 2016

Cath's Meal Plan 10/01 - 16/-1/2016

Meatballs, mashed potatoes and white gravy

Tomorrow I'm cooking the last piece of roast beef from the freezer. It will give us two roast dinners, but if it doens't come on sale soon it will be the last roast beef we have for a while. Beef really is getting beyond my meat budget.

Right now the plan is to stud it with garlic, rub it with wholegrain mustard and then slow roast it on the barbecue. The mustard will bake to a golden crust, and the meat will be moist, tender and so full of flavour. I really enjoy roast beef like this, and not just because Wayne is in charge of the cooking.

This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Beef

Monday: Chicken & Sun-dried Tomato pasta bake

Tuesday: Meat balls, mash, beans, corn

Wednesday: BLT focaccias with pesto mayo

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Chicken fajitas

Saturday: Cheeseburgers

03 January 2016

The Week that Was

Catnip - ready to make "catnip tea" to make personal insect repellent
Well we've farewelled 2015 and welcomed 2016 and we're already three days into the new year!

The last week has been easy housework, garden and work-wise.

Wayne and AJ went to Sydney on Boxing Day to spend some time with Grandad and to visit Granny.

Hannah and I went to the Boxing Day sales, leaving home at 7am (and I'm so grateful we left early). Big W opened at 7am and it was so quiet and peaceful in there. Then we went to Kmart for 8am, where it was so much more crowded. And from Kmart we went to Target, where I bumped into a lovely lady I met at the Boxing Day sales last year. We spent a good 20 minutes catching up and eyeing off each other's bargains.  By then I'd had enough and it was home via Knox City where I dropped Hannah off and took my life in my hands trying to get out of the car park. Boy was it busy!

Nandos Gift Sets - $1 each, a great Boxing Day bargain.
Presents were wrapped, labelled and packed into the present box and crossed off in my gift book.

The week between Christmas and New Year is my spring cleaning week so cupboards were emptied, wiped out and tidied. Walls were washed. Curtains were washed. Carpets were cleaned. Lots of donations were made to our local op shop. I have no idea where all these things come from, I do this at least twice a year. I guess our needs and wants change and as they do the things we use change too.

I cleaned my car - really detailed it, inside and out. Now it's all clean and shiny and nice. The plan is to get back into the habit of weekly cleaning. I used to clean the cars every Friday without fail but for some reason this past year I didn't bother and it was showing.

Finally picked cucumbers from the garden. Of course now they've started there are lots.

Picked eggplant from the garden and diced, packaged and froze it to make moussaka in winter.

Some eggplant waiting to be turned into moussaka
Shredded some silverbeet and added it to a pasta sauce. Froze the rest to use later.

Picked the last of the beans, sliced and froze them. Planted more beans to replace them.

Picked more zucchini. Diced some, sliced some. Bagged and into the freezer they went.

Picked lettuce from the garden for our meals. Planted more to replace the ones that have been picked.

The catnip is in flower so I dug out my bug repellent recipe and am ready to make a batch.  And I hope to be able to catch some seeds from the catnip to share.

Used some of my new card making tools to make a wedding card, a birthday card and two general cards.

Bought some hand towels from Spotlight, $4.19. Two are to replace dowdy towels in the main bathroom, two are to make gifts.

Bought some pretty patterned hand towels and face washers from a local $2 shop to make into gifts.

Didn't buy crochet cotton from Spotlight or Lincraft - the colours are ugly and at $6.95 a ball it is far too expensive. I'll keep an eye out at the op shop or $2 shops.

Packed away most of the Christmas decorations. Still have the wreath on the door and the tree up and they will get packed away on the 6th.

Was so very glad to have Wayne and AJ home safely on New Year's Eve.

Gratefully accepted a wonderful gift from my darling father-in-law. He sent home my mother-in-law's preserving kit - complete with boiler, jars, lids, springs - even the thermometer. It must be at least 60 years old, if not older. It's just gorgeous and I can't wait to use it.

An amazing gift of a genuinely vintage Fowlers Vacola bottling kit from my father-in-law
And the most exciting and fun thing I did this week? Started filling in my new diary! I love new diaries and starting to use them always makes me happy. I just use a 98 cent school diary, nothing fancy, but they have plenty of room to write, lots of space for special projects, great pages for lists (gifts etc.) and all the school holidays and public holidays are marked.  I closed off my 2015 diary and added it to the top shelf of my bookcase.

My new diary, already filling up!

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02 January 2016

Cath's Meal Plan 3/01 -09/01/2016

I think we're over leftovers, however tasty and interesting they have been. It's time to get back to regular eating, although lots of cold meals and salads are the go. Even with the "cool" change the days here are warm and humid, and hot meals just aren't appealing.

So this week we'll be eating lots of salad (thank goodness for a very productive garden) and barbecues. I love barbecues - Wayne does the cooking and the clean-up!

This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken and baked veggies (done on the barbecue - yay!)

Monday: Rice patties, salad

Tuesday: Spag bol and salad (from the freezer - the spag bol that is, not the salad)

Wednesday: Hawaiian Meatloaf, salad (meatloaf from the freezer, heated in the microwave)

Thursday: MOO Pizza (another barbecue meal)

Friday: Leftover Hawaiian Meatloaf, salad (meatloaf will be cold)

Saturday: Sausages, salad

Hawaiian Meatloaf
500g mince
2 eggs
1 400g can crushed pineapple, well drained (save the juice)
1 large tomato, finely diced
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Combine the mince, eggs, pineapple, tomato, capsicum, onion, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. Mix well. Line a loaf tin with baking paper (or grease it really well). Press the mince mixture into the loaf tin, levelling off the top. Bake for 1 hour. Combine the pineapple juice, barbecue sauce and brown sugar together then pour over the top of the meatloaf. Bake a further 15 - 20 minutes.