30 June 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 June 2018

Cath's Meal Plan

Fried Rice - a truly frugal Cheapskates style meal
Next week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Curried tuna rice slice, tossed salad

Tuesday: Veggie pasta bake, salad, garlic bread

Wednesday: Wellington loaf, baked veg, gravy

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Fried rice, satay vegetables

Saturday: Fried rice, rice paper rolls, dipping sauces

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The Free (or Almost Free) Holiday Fun List

I loved school holidays. Having the kids home was pure joy for me. It not only gave me an extra couple of hours in my day (no school runs), but our days were relaxed and easy. I planned easy meals, didn't fuss too much about tidying up toys and games and scheduled an extra special outing or two to keep us all entertained.

We also had a list of over 200 things to do, most of them free, all of them cheap, that would keep everyone happy and entertained during the holidays. I even threw in a few household chores - after all, not everything has to be pure entertainment and chores can be fun.

I've published the list before, but here it is again, just in time for the winter school holidays.  School hols start here in Victoria tomorrow, so, if you are struggling to end the "there's nothing to do" whines, choose a few things off the list, and then have fun.

• ride bikes
• roller blade
• basketball
• play board games
• make a tent out of blankets
• squirt with hoses  - but don t waste water
• run through the sprinkler
• have a skip-a-thon
• start researching your family tree
• start documenting your family tree
• organise and plan a family reunion
• hold a family reunion
• read books  - visit your local library and try some you haven t read before
• blow bubbles
• colour free templates you've downloaded and printed
• play with play dough
• press flowers
• do crafts with pressed flowers  - make a start on your Christmas cards
• write a letter to a relative, friend or pen pal
• clean bedroom  (one of my favourites)
• vacuum living room
• clean bathroom
• make a craft  - try something new
• draw
• make homemade play dough
• paint
• pull weeds
• give your favourite person a surprise party
• watch a movie
• write stories
• use binoculars - look for as many different things as you can
• use magnifying glass
• use microscope
• bird watching  - how many different breeds can you find in your backyard?
• write a play
• act out a play
• invent circus acts
• perform a circus
• play card games  (snap, old maid, go fish)
• make art on the footpath with chalk
• play catch
• play baseball
• collect rocks
• collect leaves
• collect feathers
• play Frisbee
• make Frisbees out of old plastic lids, decorate with markers
• dust the house
• brush the pet
• write letters  to the editor of your local newspaper about articles you are interested in
• read a magazine
• play dress-up
• play Cowboys
• pick vegetables  and then help Mum cook dinner
• play outside with the pet
• build a fort in your rooms
• build a fort in the backyard
• do a jigsaw puzzle
• play on the computer
• surprise Mum and Dad with breakfast in bed
• listen to a story or book on tape
• do extra schoolwork to get ahead
• do brain teasers (i.e.: crosswords, word searches, hidden pictures, mazes, etc.)
• cook
• prepare lunch
• surprise a neighbour with a good deed
• play shops
• prepare a "restaurant" lunch with menus
• hold a tea party
• have a Teddy bear picnic
• play with toy cars
• play dolls
• play house
• chase butterflies
• collect caterpillars and bugs
• plant a garden or a pot
• collect seeds
• hunt for four-leaf clovers
• learn magic tricks
• put on a magic show
• plant a container garden
• sprout seeds or beans
• grow a grass head
• make sock puppets
• put on a puppet show
• make Christmas presents
• make homemade wrapping paper
• make homemade gift cards
• make picture frames from twigs glued onto sturdy cardboard
• crochet or knit
• make doll clothes
• sew buttons in designs on old shirts
• run relay races
• make bookmarks
• take a quiet rest time
• take a shower or bubble bath
• bath a pet
• feed the birds
• watch the clouds
• organise a dresser drawer
• clean under the bed
• empty dishwasher
• vacuum under the couch cushions and keep any change found
• write these ideas on pieces of paper and pick out one or two to do
• whittle
• whittle bars of soap
• practice musical instruments
• perform a family concert
• teach yourself to play a musical instrument (recorder, harmonica, guitar)
• fold clean washing
• sweep kitchen or bathroom floors
• sweep front paths
• sweep back verandah
• sweep driveway
• wash car  - on the grass, of course!
• vacuum car
• vacuum or dust window blinds
• clean bathroom mirrors
• clean sliding glass doors
• clean inside of car windows
• wash bicycles
• clean garage
• play in the sandpit
• build a sandcastle
• work with clay
• copy your favourite book illustration
• design your own game
• build with blocks or Lego
• create a design box (copper wire, string, odds-and-ends of things destined for the garbage, pom-poms, thread, yarn, etc.)
• plan a neighbourhood or family Olympics
• have a marble tournament
• find a model train club and see if they have visitors at their running days
• take your bikes to the local BMX park and have a picnic and a day of riding
• spend an hour or two at the local skateboard park learning some new tricks
• paint a picture with lemon juice on white paper and hang it in a sunny window and see what happens in a few days
• finger paint with instant pudding
• make dessert
• make dinner
• have a sleepover
• have a pamper party and paint your nails
• make popcorn and watch an old movie
• make toffee with Mum
• make pink or blue (or whatever colour) pancakes for lunch
• give your pet a party
• start a nature diary
• have a read-a-thon with a friend or sibling
• have a neighbourhood bike wash
• play Kick the Can
• check out a science book and try some experiments
• make up a story
• catch butterflies and then let them go
• arrange photo albums
• find bugs and start a collection
• do some stargazing
• decorate bikes or scooters and have a neighbourhood parade
• play hide-and-seek
• create a symphony with bottles and pans and rubber bands
• listen to the birds sing
• try to imitate bird calls
• read a story to a younger child
• find out what's on at the Library and then go have free fun
• find shapes in the clouds
• string dry noodles or O-shaped cereals into a necklace
• put together a family newsletter
• write reviews of movies, plays, TV shows or concerts you see during the summer
• bake a cake
• bake a batch of biscuits
• decorate a shoe box to hold your treasures
• create family scrapbooks with old photos
• glue noodles into a design on paper
• play hopscotch
• play jacks
• make up a song
• make a teepee out of blankets
• write in your diary
• find an ant colony and spill some food and watch what happens
• play charades
• make up a story by drawing pictures
• draw a cartoon strip
• make a map of your bedroom, house or neighbourhood
• call a friend
• cut pictures from old magazines and write a story
• make a collage using pictures cut from old magazines
• do a secret service for a neighbour
• plan a treasure hunt
• make a treasure map
• make up a "Bored List" of things to do
• plan a special activity for your family
• search your house for items made in other countries and then learn about those countries from the encyclopaedia or online
• plan an imaginary trip to the moon
• plan an imaginary trip around the world, where would you want to go
• write a science-fiction story
• find a new pen pal
• make up a play using old clothes as costumes
• make up a game for practicing math facts
• have a Spelling Bee
• make up a game for practicing spelling
• surprise an elderly neighbour or relative by weeding his/her garden
• Finger paint with shaving cream
• collect sticks and mud and build a bird's nest
• write newspaper articles for a pretend newspaper
• make a hideout or clubhouse
• make paper airplanes
• have paper airplane races
• learn origami
• make an obstacle course in your backyard

After you've made your choices, use the Holiday Fun Planner to schedule all that fun, so you don't forget what you've planned or over-schedule (holidays mean down-time too).  Stick your Holiday Fun Planner on the fridge so everyone can see what's coming up and have something to look forward to.

24 June 2018


We arrived home on Friday evening, and it's been all go ever since.

Sunset in Weipa - just gorgeous, I could've happily stayed for a month
Why is it that coming home is more work than packing to go away? It's mostly done now, thank goodness, so I can stop whining and get on with the fun stuff coming up this week.

Unpacking, checking the pantry, fridge and freezer and making a shopping list, then doing the shopping (Hannah came along to help - it was quite a large shop after seven weeks), unpacking and putting things away.

The washing machine went almost non-stop this morning. I washed the linens and all our clothes from our trip. Even though they were washed regularly while we were away, they smelled musty - I think from the humidity, they never felt completely dry unless I paid the $4 -  $6 to put them through a dryer. Over the clotheshorses by the fire they went - they'll dry overnight, ready to be put away tomorrow.

All the dishes have been washed, dried and repacked, ready for our next trip.

Family sized chocolate cake - I use my Corningware baking dish to bake these extra large cakes
While we were shopping I stocked up on whole, fresh chickens from Aldi. They are currently $3/kg - great price for stocking up. Savings (overall).

I picked mandarins from our tree for this week's fruit -they were green when we left, now they're just right for picking (and eating).

I saved the egg shells from this afternoon's baking and when they are dry I'll crush them to use as snail repellent in the garden.

Wayne lit the fire almost as soon as we walked through the door, and I turned the ducted heating down. Then we burnt timber off-cuts we were given, saving the seasoned firewood for later.

Bought oranges for 29c/kg and made whole orange cakes and whizzed then froze some for future orange cakes.

After being away for so long, there wasn't much in the freezer so Hannah and I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen and we made:

  • A big pot of soup
  • 2 large quiches and 3 dozen small quiche
  • 1 batch M&M cookies
  • 1 batch Mars cookies
  • 1 Family Chocolate Cake
  • 10 serves of pasta bake (enough for two meals for us)
  • 1 loaf banana bread
  • 1 finger bun cake (my adaptation of an Adrian Zumbo mix)
  • 2 dozen Whole Orange cupcakes

I activated another 10c/litre off offer from Flybuys to fill up my car. Combined with a 4c off voucher that will bring the price down enough to fill up - saving $8.40 which has been moved to our holiday fuel account.

What did you do to save money, time and energy this week?

Remember, money isn't saved until it is safely in the bank. Until then it is just not spent - hence my "what we didn't spend" list and making sure I move money from the relevant categories into our
savings accounts.

22 June 2018

Cath's Meal Plan Week 26

Next week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Lamb

Monday: Baked Honey Mustard Chicken, vegetables

Tuesday: Spaghetti  Bolognese, garlic bread

Wednesday: Sweet lamb curry & rice

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Sweet & Sour vegetables & Singapore noodles

Saturday: Haystacks

Yield: Author: Cath Print Recipe

Baked Honey Chicken

Quick and easy, and cheaper than using a jar, this is a delicious way to use chicken.


  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Dijon style mustard*
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 4 chicken breast fillets, skin off**


  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
  2. Line a baking dish with foil.
  3. Whisk together the honey, mustard and basil in a small mixing bowl.
  4. Place the chicken fillets into the baking dish.   Pour the sauce over the top to evenly cover the chicken.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear when the chicken is poked with a fork.
  6. Serve over steamed rice or steamed vegetables.


*We prefer wholegrain mustard so I substitute it for Dijon. I buy the Aldi wholegrain mustard.
**To make chicken fillets go further, I often dice them. Two large chicken breast fillets, diced, will give six serves - five for dinner and one for the freezer - for my family.
If I don't have chicken fillets, I use drumsticks or maryland pieces.
If it is too hot to use the oven, cook the chicken fillets on the barbecue - they're just as tasty and the kitchen won't heat up.

15 June 2018

Meal Plan, Week 25 2018

Apricot chicken with steamed rice
Next week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Apricot chicken

Tuesday: Crockpot Lasagne

Wednesday: Grilled fish, wedges, tossed salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Salmon fritters, potato wedges, salad

Yield: 6

Apricot Chicken

Quick, easy and cheap - perfect for a tight grocery budget.


  • 2 chicken breast fillets, skin off and diced (about 500g)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 pkt French onion soup
  • 410g can apricot nectar


  1. Melt the butter and then brown the chicken well on all sides
  2. Mix the French onion soup with the apricot nectar.
  3. Pour over the chicken, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Serve over Savoury Rice


You can make this dish cheaper by using generic French onion soup - I use Coles brand, which I buy in bulk at the beginning of each year when I do my Once-a-Year grocery shop.

Watch the price of chicken and if thigh fillets are cheaper, replace the breast fillets with 500g thigh fillets.

Cost: $1.20 per serve
Created using The Recipes Generator

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08 June 2018

Cath's Meal Plan Week 24, 2018

This week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Beef

Monday: Schnitzels, chips, salad, tomato gravy

Tuesday: Spinach & Feta Ravioli, salad, garlic bread

Wednesday: Mexican meatballs, rice, green salad

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Muffin Surprise

Saturday: Hamburgers, chips

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01 June 2018

Cath's Meal Plan

Toasted ham and cheese sandwich - Wayne's favourite!
Next week we will be eating:

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: Salmon quiche

Tuesday: Vegetable Pasta bake, salad

Wednesday: Curried Rice patties

Thursday: MOO Pizza

Friday: Fish cakes, tossed salad

Saturday: Toasted Sandwiches

It's time to clean the dishwasher for June

Wayne and I are away at the moment, enjoying our trip to  Cape York, but the kids are home. Before we left I made sure they all knew that today was dishwasher TLC day - and the instructions for what to do.

It's easy, so give your dishwasher a little TCL today to keep it in tip top condition.

How to clean your dishwasher:

Step 1.  Place a dishwasher-safe cup filled with plain white vinegar on the top rack of your empty dishwasher. The vinegar will help to wash away the loose, greasy grime, sanitizes, and helps remove the musty odour.

Step 2. Sprinkle a cup of bicarbonate soda around the bottom of the dishwasher. The bicarbonate soda will help freshen the smell of the dishwasher as well as brighten up the look of the inside of your appliance by removing stains.

Step 3.  Using the hottest water available, run the dishwasher through a cycle – except for the cup of vinegar, the dishwasher needs to be empty.

Now that the dishwasher is clean and running right here are a few tips to keep it that way until the next cleaning.

Run a bit of hot water in your sink before running the dishwasher. You will get cleaner dishes if the water starts hot. You can collect the water you run and use it to fill the kettle or for watering plants or other purposes. Run the water until what comes out of the tap feels hot.

Make sure your water starts hot enough. Set the thermostat on your hot water service to 50 degrees Celsius. Water that is cooler than this won’t be hot enough to clean properly and water that is any hotter could scald.

A routine dishwasher cleaning is a good habit to get into. Mark it on the calendar to do regularly each month, the same day you do the drains and the washing machine.